Utopia, Limited

Background | Recordings


Contemporary poster for Utopia, Limited

After The Gondoliers opened in 1889, a quarrel between Gilbert, Sullivan, and their impressario Richard D'Oyly Carte, nearly ended their partnership. Gilbert believed that the cost of a new carpet for the Savoy was an expense of operating the theatre, which Carte should bear. Carte believed that it was an expense of putting on the opera, which all three partners should bear. Sullivan didn't seem to care much either way, but as he and Carte were already in business together on numerous other ventures, he refused to side with Gilbert.

By the time the quarrel could be resolved, The Gondoliers had closed, and Carte had to mount a string of non-G&S operas to keep his theatre open. It was not until 1893 that Gilbert and Sullivan could be brought back together, but the magic of their partnership was gone for good. Utopia, Limited scored only a modest success. After the initial London run and a few years on tour, D'Oyly Carte did not revive it again until the 1975 centenary season, and then only briefly. Rupert D'Oyly Carte did consider a revival in the 1920s, but he shelved the idea due to the expense involved.

Gilbert and Sullivan fans love to debate the merits of Utopia, Limited. It certainly has its share of both admirers and detractors. That the opera has several delightful musical numbers is undeniable. The argument, ultimately unresolvable, is about whether there are enough of them.

For a long time, the 1976 D'Oyly Carte recording was the only one currently in print. It is a somewhat flat and uninspired account of the score, but certainly the best we're likely to have for the foreseeable future. The 2001 Ohio Light Opera recording is a bit more energetic, balanced by American accents and slightly less polished voices.


** 1963 Lyric Theater Company Ster Dial LP
NR 1964 D'Oyly Carte Ster Hlts LPCass
** 1965 Los Angeles Savoy-Artes Ster LP
NR 1966 BBC Dial Radio
*** 1976 D'Oyly Carte Ster LPCassCD
NR 1989 BBC Ster Dial Radio
*** 2001 Ohio Light Opera Ster Dial CD