Scope of the G&S Discography
The G&S Discography seeks to present every significant Gilbert and/or Sullivan recording ever offered for commercial sale. Also included are major television programs and radio broadcasts, even if they were never published in any other format. This site covers four major types of recordings:
- Complete recordings and substantial abridgements of G&S operas, including operas Gilbert and Sullivan wrote with other partners. You'll find these recordings listed in the opera index, the chronological index, and in the historical tour.
G&S highlights. These are listed in the
highlights index and include:
- Concerted highlights (typically, anthologies of material not previously issued).
- Solo recitals (recordings dedicated primarily to the art of one singer).
- Instrumental arrangements from Sullivan's operas.
- Compilations of overtures.
- Compilations from previously-issued material.
- Derivative works (histories, parodies, take-offs).
- Recordings of Sullivan's non-operatic works, which are listed in the Sullivan index.
Major recordings each have their own web page, which presents a cast list, background discussion, and in most cases a a critical assessment. The non-operatic recordings are generally grouped many to a page, since there is less to say about them. The term "recording" is here construed broadly to include videos and motion pictures. Because I have received so many specific questions about videos, all "visual" recordings are listed in a video index, in addition to being listed in the other indexes.
The following categories are excluded:
Amateur and non-commercial recordings, except for
those that include (or did at the time of issue) important
material not readily available from commercial sources.
I exclude these for a few reasons. Amateur recordings usually are available for only a short time, are not well publicized, and do not achieve a wide distribution. Many are of poor quality and would not appeal to the typical listener, unless the material itself is rare. While there are exceptions, I am loth to make value judgments about amateur companies, nor do I think it particularly useful to list every amateur recording or video that has ever been offered for sale. Therefore, I choose to list amateur recordings only when the material itself is of special interest (e.g., a Sullivan opera that has rarely been recorded).
Individual discs or sides from the "vintage" (78rpm) era. (Complete sets and
substantial abridgements are included.)
In the early days of recorded sound, Sullivan recordings were made by the thousands. To list all of them would be an enormous task. Moreover, as I am not a collector of cylinders or 78's, all I could do would be merely to copy other people's catalogs and discographies without adding any value of my own. This task should be undertaken by someone who has more knowledge of the material than I have. Many of the important vintage recordings have been re-issued on LP or CD anyway, which brings them into scope. I also list all more-or-less "complete" recordings of entire operas. Most have been re-issued on LP or CD in any case, and it is safe to assume that the others eventually will be.
Recordings that have just one or a few Sullivan tracks, amidst mostly non-Sullivan
There have, of course, been many of these, and I simply feel they are not of sufficient interest to bother with. I make an exception if either the quality of the performance or the rarity of the material warrants it.
My primary objective is to be useful, so I reserve the right to break my own rules where I feel it is helpful to do so.
"Recordings" versus "Issues"
Most G&S recordings, unless they are extremely old or extremely recent, have been issued multiple times in a variety of formats. For example, Decca issued most of the sets in D'Oyly Carte's monaural series simultaneously on both LP records and 78's, and most of them even on 45's. Later, in the 1960s, the whole series was issued again on the budget Ace of Clubs and Richmond labels. Similarly, most of D'Oyly Carte's first stereo recordings were also issued in mono (to say nothing of more-recent cassette and CD re-issues).
The more popular historical sets, originally issued on 78rpm records, present an even more confusing state of affairs. These have continued to be issued repeatedly in every available format (mono LP, stereo LP, cassette and CD). What's more, these recordings are now essentially in the public domain and are free to be re-issued by anybody who can find a set in good enough condition to transfer.
This discography is concerned with recordings, not issues. Each set is covered once, regardless of the number of times and/or formats in which it has been re-packaged. An issue history appears at the bottom of each recording's web page. This lists the format, label, catalog number and packaging details of every issue of a given recording that I know of. Thanks to my own collection, comprehensive databases provided by Seth Schneider, Dave Kehs, J. Donald Smith, and Chris Webster, email input from other correspondents too numerous to mention, and various other sources, I think the issue histories are very close to comprehensive, though I am constantly discovering new information.
Collectors are especially cautioned that what may appear to be a "new" recording may be an old one with new cover art. Look closely at copyright dates and cast lists, to make sure you really are getting something new. You would be amazed how often old recordings are dressed up in new clothes. (For a recording with a really complex issue history, see the 1927 Trial By Jury, for example.)