Princess Ida, or Castle Adamant, is a comic opera with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It opened at the Savoy Theatre on January 5, 1884, for a run of 246 performances. The piece concerns a princess who founds a women’s university and teaches that women are superior to men and should rule in their stead. The prince to whom she had been married in infancy sneaks into the university, together with two friends, with the aim of collecting his bride. They disguise themselves as women students but are discovered, and all soon face a literal war between the sexes.
The opera satirizes feminism, women’s education, and Darwinian evolution, which were controversial topics in conservative Victorian England. Princess Ida is based on a narrative poem by Alfred Tennyson called The Princess, and Gilbert had written a farcical parody of the poem in 1870. He lifted much of the dialogue of Princess Ida directly from his 1870 farce. It is the only Gilbert and Sullivan opera in three acts and the only one with dialogue in blank verse.
By Savoy Opera standards, Princess Ida was not considered a success (a particularly hot summer in London did not help ticket sales), and it was not revived in London until 1919. Nevertheless, the piece is performed regularly today by both professional and amateur companies, although not as frequently as the most popular of the Savoy operas. This was the eighth operatic collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan.
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