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Savoy Opera Company Inc Presents

Utopia Limited or The Flowers of Progress

Alexander Theatre Monash University

Wellington Road Clayton

May 23rd & 24th 2014

 

Utopia Limited, or The Flowers of Progress opened October 7, 1893 at the Savoy Theatre and ran for 245 performances. It was the penultimate collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan, opening more than two years after Gondoliers had closed, and following a legal dispute between Gilbert on the one hand and Carte and Sullivan on the other, the famous "Carpet Quarrel". Despite their subsequent attempts to patch up their relationship, they would never again be on the same terms as the had been during the eighties.

Utopia was the most extravagantly costumed and staged of all the Savoy Operas. It requires a very large cast. Gilbert's libretto is less tightly constructed than its predecessors and for some the score represents the nadir of Sullivan's creative output. This may explain why it is revived less often than the earlier operas. But the piece is not without its admirers. George Bernard Shaw stated: "I enjoyed the score of Utopia more than that of any of the previous Savoy operas."

King Paramount of the south seas island of Utopia decides that his people should adopt all English customs and institutions, but he goes a bit overboard and decrees that the kingdom and each of its inhabitants should become a "company limited" based on the English "companies act" of 1862. The king's daughter, Princess Zara, brings six "flowers of progress" from England to train the Utopian people in "English" customs. But the reforms are too successful, which upsets the judges of the Utopian Supreme Court, the "Public Exploder" and ultimately the entire populace, which revolts against them. Zara realises that an essential element has been forgotten, namely "government by party". Introduce that and the result would be "general and unexampled prosperity".