The Chieftain

(Sullivan and F.C. Burnand, 1893)

Background | Recordings


This opera was written while Gilbert and Sullivan were still estranged over the "carpet quarrel." Sullivan had, in the meantime, written a grand opera (Ivanhoe) and an indifferently successful comic opera for the Savoy, Haddon Hall.

For his next opera, Sullivan returned to one of his earliest: The Contrabandista, which he and the librettist, F. C. Burnand, revised as The Chieftain. The new work was half new and half old, but very nearly all bad. It ran for but 96 performances, making it one of Sullivan's least successful works for the stage.


The 1978 recording is of a vastly rewritten version by David Eden. It discards virtually all of Burnand's dialogue and many of his lyrics, restructuring the work to give voice to as much of "the most delightful of Sullivan's comic opera scores" as possible. The 1980s Prince Consort recording is a more faithful recording of the score (warts and all), and is the only one currently available.

NR 1978 Rare Recorded Editions Ster LP
NR 1980s Prince Consort Ster CD

Two selections from the opera were published on Sullivan & Co.: The Operas that Got Away.