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Theatre / Thespis

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Thespis, or The Gods Grown Old is the first collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan. It premiered in December, 1871. The score for the Opera, save for one song that was published separately and another that the team reused in The Pirates of Penzance, is lost to time, though the libretto survives, and productions have occasionally been mounted with different music.

The Gods of Mount Olympus, feeling old and unappreciated, head off down to Earth in disguise to mingle with humanity. They leave a company of actors, led by Thespis, in their stead. Hilarity Ensues, of course.


Behold these tropes:

  • Bowdlerise: Parodied; Daphne, as Calliope, the Muse of Fame, uses a Bowdlerised dictionary to prove that Apollo (played by Sparkeion) is her husband.
    Thespis: "Apollo was several times married, among others to Issa, Bolina, Coronis, Chymene, Cyrene, Chione, Acacallis, and Calliope."
    Daphne: And Calliope.
    Thespis (musing): Ha! I didn't know he was married to them.
    Daphne (severely): Sir! This is the Family Edition!
  • Crosscast Role: Mercury was played by a woman, making this the only such role in any of Gilbert & Sullivan's operas.
  • God Job: Thespis and his company become substitutes for The Olympians.
  • My Card: Jupiter introduces himself to Thespis this way.
  • Opening Chorus: "Throughout the Night, the Constellations", sung by the Women's Chorus.
  • Physical God: The Gods have ended up old, powerless and ridiculously out of touch. Apparently they still get sacrifices from Australia.
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  • Really Gets Around: Daphne "would flirt with anybody," according to Nicemis.