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Theatre / The Gondoliers

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The Gondoliers (or, The King of Barataria) is an operetta by the indomitable duo Gilbert and Sullivan. It was the last attempt at a comic opera before their legendary split (or, well, one of their legendary splits) and is notable for having perhaps the largest cast of any of their operettas. It was the last of their collaborations to be really successful.

The plot is a parody of the melodrama. Many years ago, the Grand Inquisitor Don Alhambra de Bolero kidnapped the infant Prince of Barataria, taking him to a gondolier to be raised alongside his own son. After a number of years have passed, he returns to bring the rightful king back to Barataria, only to find that the gondolier is dead, and nobody knows which of his two "sons" is king except for the King of Barataria's foster mother, who is abroad.

Oh, and also both of the gondolier's sons (now gondoliers themselves) are Republicans who don't believe in monarchy. And married, though now one of them was married as a baby to Casilda, the daughter of a Spanish Duke. The gondoliers, Marco and Giuseppe, are (understandably) upset that they might now have to leave their wives, whom they'd married only that morning, for a lady they don't know. Casilda, likewise, is upset that she will have to marry someone other than her beloved Luiz, who is her father's lowly private drummer. As a compromise, the Don Alhambra allows both gondoliers to travel to Barataria and rule together. Hilarity Ensues.

I stole these tropes, and I brought them here...:

  • All Love Is Unrequited: Most of the contadine are in love with Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, both at once, while the gondoliers themselves pine for the contadine.
  • All There in the Script: Most of the minor-lead gondoliers and contadine (Fiametta, Vittoria, Giulia, Antonio, Francesco, Giorgio, and Annibale) only have names in the Dramatis Personae.
  • Arranged Marriage: Casilda was married at the age of six months to the infant son of the King of Barataria, who's been in hiding ever since. Unfortunately in the meantime she's fallen in love with Luiz... This turns into a Perfectly Arranged Marriage when it is revealed that the rightful heir to the throne of Barataria is Luiz rather than Marco or Guiseppe.
  • Attack! Attack... Retreat! Retreat!: The Duke of Plaza Toro, famously, leads his regiment "from behind," and, when forced to retreat, does so ahead of his men. Bravely.
  • Calling Me a Logarithm: Trying to work out who's legally married to whom, someone points out that if between two men there are three wives, then each wife gets 2/3 of a husband. Upon which:
    Tessa: My good sir, one can't marry a vulgar fraction!
    Giuseppe: You've no right to call me a vulgar fraction.
  • Cleaning Up Romantic Loose Ends: After Marco and Giuseppe pick their brides through a game of chance, the rest of the gondoliers and contadine pair off nicely.
  • Counterpoint Duet: "In A Contemplative Fashion" raises the bar by being a Counterpoint Quartet.
  • Crowd Song: There are a few of these.
  • Deus ex Machina: The King of Barataria turns out to be Luiz, which allows Casilda to marry her love, and the two gondoliers to remain with their wives.
  • The Dividual: Marco and Giuseppe attempt to stand "united as one individual" to rule the kingdom jointly. Mostly they just succeed in looking silly.
  • Either/Or Title: The "or" title is, aptly, "The King of Barataria"
  • Everyone Must Be Paired: The gondoliers and contadine. Played with — all the romantic pairing-off, including both the leads and the matching up of the female and male choruses, happens in the very first scene. Other complications then separate the lovers until the end.
  • Fun with Foreign Languages: Gilbert went wild with this one.
  • Grande Dame: The Duchess of Plaza Toro.
  • Happily Ever After: It's Gilbert and Sullivan.
  • Happily Married: Marco, Gianetta, Giuseppe, and Tessa get to sing an ensemble piece about how wonderful it is to be married. That's before they found out that one of them is an "unintentional bigamist", though.
  • Horny Sailors: All the boatmen in a Venetian neighborhood sail off to rule a small kingdom (It Makes Sense in Context), and as one of them says, "it is dull without female society." Their lady friends, feeling the same way, make the trip across the sea themselves to rejoin the men.
  • "I Am" Song: "We're Called Gondolieri" and "From the Sunny Spanish Shore"
  • If I Were a Rich Man: "Then One Of Us Will Be A Queen" is mostly Gianetta and Tessa wondering what it'd be like to, you know, be a queen. Marco and Giuseppe also sing a lovely song about how, when they're kings, they will make everyone equal.
  • Impoverished Patrician: The Duke of Plaza-Toro is so short on cash that he's decided to have himself incorporated for tax purposes as a public company called The Duke of Plaza-Toro, Ltd.
  • Job Song: Two songs about nobility feature.
    • Marco and Giuseppe's song "Rising Early in the Morning" is about their everyday lives in the joint reign as King of Barataria.
    • The Duke and Duchess have a song about the many dubious things they do to maintain their social position.
  • List Song: Giuseppe lists off the king's duties and responsibilities in "Rising Early In the Morning."
  • Love Dodecahedron: Casilda is in an Arranged Marriage to the King of Barataria, but she's in love with Luiz. Meanwhile, the long-lost King of Barataria is presumed to be either Marco or Giuseppe, but each of them is married to another woman. So at least one person here may be an unintentional bigamist. Fortunately, it turns out that the real king is Luiz, so everyone can marry the one they're in love with.
  • Medley Overture: As per usual in a Savoy Opera.
  • Melodrama: Parodied.
  • Miles Gloriosus: Parodied by the Duke of Plaza-Toro, whose "I Am" Song boasts that he is praised for his bravery in running away and hiding from battle, boldly retreating at the head of his regiment. And once he found out that being in the service meant getting shot at, he was the very first in his entire corps to hand in his resignation.
  • Oddball in the Series: Two of each vocal part, as well as the two contraltos Gilbert wrote who aren't lovelorn and pining for someone they cannot have (as they are both married with a child).
  • Opening Chorus: "List and Learn"
  • Overly Polite Pals: "Signorine" "Contadine- Cavalieri" "Gondolieri"
  • The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything: "We're Called Gondolieri" describes the typical day of a Gondolier. Which apparently consists of serenading one's love, rather than ferrying people around in a gondola.
  • Product Placement: During an Australian production, the Duke and Duchess of Plaza Toro sang about the numerous advertising deals they've made and mentioned the bank that sponsored the production.
  • Rags to Royalty: Luiz is the Duke of Plaza Toro's lowly private drum or suite; then just before the end, he is revealed to be the true King of Barataria.
  • Rightful King Returns: This is... basically the plot. Problem is, there's more than one candidate for the post.
  • Red Herring Shirt: Gianetta and Tessa become the female leads when they are selected by the heroes in a game of Blind Man's Bluff; before this there's no indication that they're anything other than ordinary members of the chorus.
  • Shout-Out: The name of the Kingdom of Barataria is borrowed from that of the "island" governed by Sancho Panza in Don Quixote.
  • Switched at Birth: The infant heir to the throne of Barataria was entrusted to the care of a Gondolier, who unfortunately drunkenly confused him with his own son. So now, nobody can be sure whether it's Marco or Giuseppe who's the rightful king. Turns out, it's actually Luiz; his mother was the nurse and gave the Gondolier her own son to keep the infant king safe with herself. Although which of Marco and Giuseppe is the nurse's son is left unspecified.
  • Those Two Guys: Marco and Giuseppe.
  • Visual Pun: In the original production, on "Life is one complicated tangle," the Don Alhambra De Bolero lifted a complicated tangle of spaghetti on a fork.