The Gondoliers
The King of Barataria
Words: W.S. Gilbert
Music: Arthur Sullivan
Written in: Authored Date:

Act 1
The scene is the Piazetta, Venice, just outside the Ducal Palace, where a large body of country girls has gathered in the hope of picking up a handsome Gondolier or two. Various candidates offer themselves, but none will do except the most handsome pair, Marco and Guiseppe Palmiari. When these two appear, the girls overwhelm then with their attentions, and insist that the pair immediately select two from their number as their brides. They play Blind Man’s Buff and, amazingly the two Gondoliers capture their two favourite girls, Gianetta and Tessa. The remaining girls suppress their disappointment and all go off to celebrate the double wedding.

At this juncture arrives a somewhat sea-sick party – none other than the proud but impoverished Duke of Plaza Toro, his Duchess, their daughter, and their impressive retinue, Luiz the Drummer. It appears that Casilda, the Duke’s daughter, was betrothed in babyhood to the infant son of the King of Barataria; the latter having recently deceased, the ducal party has come to Venice, whence Barataria’s heir was removed for safety by the Grand Inquisitor of Spain.

On being told of the reason for their voyage, Casilda is naturally indignant of being married off without being consulted. Her father reveals his plans for securing their financial future by promoting himself as a public company, and assures Casilda that in doing so, he will, as usual, be leading a fashion. He sweeps the Duchess off into the Ducal palace, little realising that behind his back, his daughter and Luiz have been conducting a full-blooded liaison, which appears is doomed by the news of Casilda’s prior engagement!

Re-enter the Duke and Duchess with Don Alhambra del Bolero, the Grand Inquisitor of Spain, currently residing in Venice. He recounts the part he played in rescuing the infant royal, but admits that at the moment it is not certain which of the two Palmiari “brothers” is actually the King, and which the Gondolier. Luckily, it transpires that Luiz’s mother, a nurse to the Gondoliers when children, knows which is which, and will be persuaded to tell all on being brought back from the mountains. Commenting on life’s tangles, the ducal party disappear into the Palace as, unsuspectingly, the now-married couples, Marco and Gianetta, Guiseppe and Tessa, reappear, extolling the delights of matrimony.

The Grand Inquisitor, on re-entering, is upset to hear of the marriages, but confines himself to telling the two young men that one of them is actually a King, and until their old nurse can be brought back to identify which is which, they must return to Barataria and rule jointly as one individual.

Overcoming rapidly their Republican fallacies, the quartet anticipate the pleasures of Kingship, until the Inquisitor states that “ladies are not admitted”.

The new combined ”King” promises equality for everyone, and says farewell to his wives, as the entire male population of Venice departs for Barataria.

Act 2
Act 2 opens in the Fitness Suite of the Royal Palace on the Island of Barataria.

The joint Kings, Marco and Guiseppe, strive hard to cater for their subjects, who are indulging in a little gentle exercise while their Monarchs sweat under a weary load, thanks to a legal fiction, on mere half-rations!

Left alone, the twin Kings ruminate on the little wives they left behind in Venice, and Marco reminds his brother that there is “only one recipe for happiness”.

On cure, in rush all the girls who have made their way “at risk of their lives” across the ocean to join their men-folk.

Still no definitive news about who is rightful King – so why not launch into a lively cachucha, castanets and all? Barataria is sort-of-Spanish – so they do!

The ominous figure of Don Alhambra prematurely terminates the festivities, as he pours scorn on the equalitarian plans of the new Monarchy, and announces the imminent arrival of the Plaza Toros. The Don finally lets out the startling fact that one of the Gondoliers is an unintentional bigamist, having been married as a baby, and that consequently neither Tessa nor Gianetta will be a Queen.

The four young people try to disentangle yet another of life’s knots and exit, still pondering, as the Ducal party make their grand entrance. The success of the Duke’s scheme to list himself as a plc is only too apparent in the new and luxurious attire of this trio.

Casilda is still hesitant about her marriage to an unknown, but her mother proves by her own example that a girl can marry and tame any man is she puts her mind to it. The couple then outline the nature of their work in helping “unhappy commoners” to become less common.

The two royal Gondoliers enter, trying to explain their plight to Casilda, when Don Alhambra announces the long-awaited arrival of Inez, the foster-nurse who will reveal ALL – which she does, to the general relief and delight of everyone!

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