The Grand Duke
or The Statutory Duel
A comic opera in 2 Acts by W.S. Gilbert. Music by Arthur Sullivan
Savoy Theatre, London - 7 March, 1896 (123 perfs)
The curtain rises on the market square of Speisesaal in the Grand Duchy of Pfennig Halbpfennig; a theatrical company, managed by Ernest Dummkopf, is celebrating the forthcoming marriage of the soubrette, Lisa, to the leading comedian, Ludwig, and sings about the wedding and the bride's untidy hair and badly-fitting dress. Complications immediately arise and we learn of the conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Duke and put Dummkopf in his place.
Meanwhile, no parson can be found to marry Ludwig and Lisa until 6 o'clock because the Grand Duke has called a convocation of his clergy to discuss his own marriage with the wealthy Baroness von Krakenfeldt, and as the company is to perform Troilus and Cressida at 7 o'clock, there is nothing for it but to have the wedding breakfast before the wedding.
Ludwig sings of the sausage roll, informing everyone that to eat one is a secret sign of involvement in the conspiracy to overthrow the Grand Duke; Ernest arrives, confident and happy in the knowledge that he is certain to become Grand Duke, and a great deal of play is made of this. The beautiful English leading lady, Julia Jellicoe, says that she will obviously have the leading part and will be the Grand Duchess, but in the midst of all this Ludwig arrives to say that by a most unfortunate mistake he has given away the conspiracy to the Grand Duke's detective.
The Notary, Dr. Tannhauser, suggests that a century-old law involving a statutory duel can be invoked, whereby to avoid bloodshed, the drawing of cards decides the issue, the loser is pronounced dead and the winner takes over all his assets and possessions. It is thought that in this way they would be able to lull the Grand Duke's suspicions as the winner could go to him and denounce the "dead man" as the instigator of the plot. Ernest and Ludwig decide to fight this statutory duel, therefore, especially as Dr. Tannhauser tells them the Act is due to expire the next day, thereby restoring things back to their rightful place, the loser already having been decreed dead, being able to come to life again with a clean slate. Ludwig draws an Ace to Ernest's King, so is deemed the winner.
Next, the Grand Duke Rudolph makes his appearance; he is a sad and miserable character in old, dirty clothes, and represents the height of meanness. He is pleased that the Baroness' income is great and at the same time she is as parsimonious as he is, but at this moment the Baroness comes on the scene very excited because she has heard that Rudolph was betrothed in infancy to the Princess of Monte Carlo; Rudolph, however, dismisses this idea by saying that the contract becomes void if the Princess is not married by the time she comes of age, which happens to be the next day, so all seems well for him and the Baroness.
Rudolph now reads the report from his private detective of the plot to depose him and becomes more gloomy and depressed than ever, so is very receptive to Ludwig, who now comes on the scene with the suggestion that they too should fight a statutory duel and, by cheating, ensure that Ludwig shall win so that he shall be the Grand Duke to be deposed the following day. In the presence of the populace, they stage a violent quarrel (Big bombs, small bombs, great guns and little ones)), draw their cards, and Ludwig is hailed as the new Grand Duke. Julia insists that now she must marry Ludwig in place of Lisa, and the two girls sing a duet Oh, listen to me, dear, Lisa going off heartbroken at the end.
The time is the next morning, in the Entrance Hall of the Ducal Palace, where all the members of the new Court (the theatrical company) dressed in their Troilus and Cressida wigs and costumes are waiting to herald the return of Ludwig and Julia from their marriage ceremony.
Ludwig says that he intends, as a first gesture, to revive the habits and customs of Ancient Greece, although some of the classical costumes would not be suitable; Lisa is very unhappy at having lost Ludwig and asks Julia to look after him well. After she has gone, Julia and Ludwig discuss how the part of the Grand Duchess should be played and Julia sings her notion of a first-rate part, I have a rival.
The Baroness now bursts upon the scene full of fury and is told by Ludwig that, far from the law about the statutory duel having expired that morning, he has decided to keep it alive for another hundred years, so that those who have been "killed" must remain so. On hearing this, the Baroness appears to be delighted, saying that as he has taken over the part of the Grand Duke, he must therefore marry her. It is now Julia's turn to be unhappy. At this point Ernest reappears, very hurt because Ludwig has married Julia who, although thinking at first he is a ghost, says she cannot marry him as she would be his widow, not his wife.
The wedding party of Ludwig and the Baroness now appears but in the midst of the celebrations, just to add to the complicated situation, the Prince of Monte Carlo arrives with his daughter. He, however, is no longer financially embarrassed. He has invented the game of roulette, made a great fortune and so has brought his daughter to Pfenmg Halbpfennig to claim the Grand Duke's hand in marriage.
This really upsets the applecart. Dr. Tannhauser appears and says there has been a slight mistake regarding the various duels, as he has now discovered that the law specifically states that the Ace is to count as the lowest card, not the highest; therefore, as Ludwig won the duel with the Grand Duke by cutting an Ace, not having succeeded to the Dukedom he has no power to revive the law, and the Opera closes with all the couples being sorted out and united – Ludwig and Lisa, Ernest and Julia, Rudolph and the Princess of Monte Carlo, and the Baroness flirting with the Prince.
Cast of Characters
Rudolph - (Grand Duke ofPfennig Halbpfennig)
Ernest Dummkopf - (a Theatrical Manager)
Ludwig - (his Leading Comedian)
Dr. Tannhäuser (a Notary)
The Prince of Monte Carlo
Ben Hashbaz - (a Costumier)
The Princess of Monte Carlo - (betrothed to Rudolph)
The Barones von Krakenfeldt - (betrothed to Rudolph)
Julia Jellicoe - (an English Comedienne)
Lisa - (a Soubrette)
Olga, Gretchen, Bertha, Martha, Elsa - (Members of Ernest Dummkopf 's Company)
Chamberlains, Nobles, Actors, Actresses, etc.
Won't It be A Pretty Wedding?
Pretty Lisa, Fair And Tasty
By The Mystic Regulation
Were I A King In Very Truth
How Would I Play This Part?
My Goodness Me! What Shall I Do?
Ten Minutes Since I Met A Chap
About a Century Since
Strange The Views Some People Hold
Now Take A Card, And Gaily Sing
The Good Grand Duke
A Pattern To Professors Of Monarchical Autonomy
As O'er Our Penny Roll We Sing
When You Find You're A Broken-Down Critter
(Finale Act 1): Come Hither All You People
a. Oh, A Monarch Who Boasts Intellectual Graces
b. Ah, Pity Me, My Comrades True
c. Oh, Listen To Me, Dear
d. The Die Is Cast
e. For This Will Be A jolly Court
As Before You We Defile
Your Loyalty Our Ducal Heart-Strings Touches
At The Outset I May Mention
Yes, Ludwig and His Julia Are Mated
Take Care of Him
He's Much Too Good To Live
Now Julia, Come, Consider It From
Your Highness, There's A Party at the Door
With Fury Indescribable I Burn
Now Away To the Wedding We Go
So Ends My Dream
Broken Ev'ry Promise
If The Light of Love's Lingering Ember
Why: Who Is This Approaching?
The Prince Of Monte Carlo
His Highness We Know Not
We're Rigged Out In Magnificent Array
Take My Advice When Deep In Debt
Hurrah! Now Away To The Wedding
Well, You're A Pretty Kind Of Fellow.
(Finale Act 2): Happy Couples, Lightly Treading
Scenes and Settings
Act I. — Scene. Public Square of Speisesaal.
Act II. — Scene. Hall in the Grand Ducal Palace.
Time — 1750.