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His Excellency


A comic opera in 2 acts by W. S. Gilbert. Music by F. Osmond Carr.

Lyric Theatre, London - 27 October, 1894 - 6 April, 1895 (161 perfs)
Broadway Theatre, New York - 14 October, 1895 (88 perfs).


Act I

The people of Elsinore celebrate a newly-unveiled statue of the Prince Regent. Its creator, Erling Sykke, has been named Sculptor to the Royal Family. After the townspeople leave, Christina remains, transfixed. She tells Erling that she is in love with the statue. Erling's friend, Dr. Tortenssen, has been named Physician to the King. The two men are in love with Nanna and Thora, the daughters of Elsinore's governor, George Griffenfeld. Until now, the girls have scornfully refused the two suitors' advances. The young men hope for better luck, now that they have secured royal appointments. Nanna and Thora appear, and they appear receptive to the men's entreaties. But after the men leave, the girls admit that the appointments are a practical joke, one of many their father has perpetrated on the citizens of Elsinore.

The King's Hussars enter, led by Corporal Harold. The Governor has compelled them to dance like ballet-girls every day from 10 to 2. Griffenfeld joins them, and chastises the Hussars for their lack of a sense of humour. He admits to Harold, however, that one of his practical jokes has backfired. Just for fun, he had proposed marriage to the extraordinarily wealthy Dame Hecla Cortlandt. He now wants to break off the engagement, but he fears her dangerous temper. When she arrives, Griffenfeld asks her what she would do if, hypothetically, his proposal turned out to be a ruse. Her angry reply leaves him terrified. With his two daughters, he plots to trick Mats Munck, the local Syndic, into believing that Dame Cortlandt wants to marry Munck.

After they leave, the Prince Regent appears, in disguise, dressed as a "tattered vagabond". He has received many complaints about Griffenfeld's behaviour from the citizens of Elsinore, and he wants to see for himself if they are true. He encounters Christina, who is struck by his resemblance to the statue, but he tells her that he is a mere strolling player, Nils Egilsson. After she leaves, he encounters Griffenfeld, who also notices the resemblance. Seeing another opportunity for a practical joke, Griffenfeld asks "Egilsson" to impersonate the Prince Regent – dispensing fake honours to the townspeople, which will later be revealed as amusing hoaxes. Christina overhears their agreement, but left alone with the Regent once again, promises not to divulge their secret.

Mats Mucnk has a meeting with Dame Cortlandt, in which she believes she is consulting him on arrangements for her marriage with Griffenfeld, but Mats believes that she plans to marry him. Dame Cortlandt finds his behaviour incomprehensible. Erling and Tortenssen now learn that their court appointments are a sham. Nanna and Thora reject their marriage proposals, given their impoverished status. Fed up with Griffenfeld's incessant practical jokes, Erling and Tortenssen assemble the townspeople, and are joined by Dame Cortlandt, who has realized what is going on, and they plan to go to Copenhagen to complain to the Prince personally. When Griffenfeld arrives, he tells them that the Regent is already in Elsinore to hear their complaints. The chorus are jubilant that their grievances will finally be heard, while Griffenfeld and his daughters pretend to be alarmed and to beg for mercy.

Act II

The people of Elsinore await their audience with the Regent. Mats Munck has drawn up their complaints in a formal legal document. Christina assures them that she foresees the Governor's downfall. Nanna and Thora beg forgiveness for their father, but the crowd will have none of it. Finally, the Regent arrives in a great ceremony. As evidence of the Governor's practical jokes, Harold and the Hussars dance a ballet for him. The Regent announces that Erling and Tortenssen's previous appointments are confirmed, and they are elevated to the nobility. Corporal Harold is promoted to Colonel, Mats Munck is promoted to Governor, and Griffenfeld is degraded to the rank of Private. Lastly, he commands that Erling and Tortenssen marry Griffenfeld's daughters, and he invites the whole village to a banquet at the castle. After the chorus have left, Griffenfeld tells "Egilsson" that he is pleased with how well the joke is working. He ignores that his joke on Dame Cortlandt backfired.

Harold is enjoying his new rank. He and Blanca decide to write a three-volume novel about their lives. Meanwhile, Dame Cortlandt once again confronts Mats Munck. She insists that she was engaged to the Governor. Now that Mats is Governor, she is engaged to him, but now he is not interested. Mats asks a nearby sentry if he is obliged to marry her. Griffenfeld changes places with the sentry, and says that he must. Griffenfeld is delighted that, once again, all of his practical jokes are working beautifully, but his daughters are starting to feel some remorse over their treatment of Erling and Tortenssen. The new nobles make a pretence of behaving haughtily towards the young ladies, but soon crumble before the feminine tears. Left alone, the girls finally admit that they have real feelings for the men.

Everyone gathers for the weddings, but Griffenfeld abruptly announces that the Regent's visit was a sham, and all of the honours he dispensed were practical jokes. But "Egilsson" turns the tables, and announces that he is the real Regent. All of the honours are to become permanent, and likewise Griffenfeld's demotion to the rank of Private is confirmed. The Regent asks Christina to marry him, and all of the couples are happily united.

Musical Numbers

ACT I - Market Place of Elsinore.

  1. Opening Chorus and Ballad - Christina - "Set the merry bunting flying, fire the cannon, ring the bells..."
  2. Song - Erling - "When I bestow my bosom's store, no room for doubt must I descry..."
  3. Duet - Nanna & Thora - "Oh, my goodness, here's the nobility..."
  4. Quartette - Nanna, Thora, Erling & Tortenssen - "If all is as you say..."
  5. Chorus of Girls - "Here are the warriors all ablaze, sabre and epaulettes, ha ha!..."
  6. Duet - Dame Hecla & Griffenfeld - "Now what would I do if you proved untrue..."
  7. Trio - Nanna, Thora & Griffenfeld - "Oh what a fund of joy jocund lies hid in harmless hoaxes!..."
  8. Song - Regent - "A King who is pester'd with cares, though no doubt he may often trepan them..."
  9. Duet - Regent & Griffenfeld, with Christina - "Now if you would atone for your unmannerly intrusion..."
  10. Duet - Dame Hecla & Mats Munck - "Now all that we've agreed upon, O ..."
  11. Song - Nanna - "My wedded life must ev'ry pleasure bring..."
  12. Finale Act I - "Come hither ev'ry one, come hither all..."

ACT II - Courtyard of the Castle.

  1. Opening Chorus and Scene - "With anger stern and fierce determination..." (almost 15 minutes long)
  2. Song - Griffenfeld - "Quixotic is his enterprise and hopeless his adventure is..."
  3. Duet - Harold & Blanca - "There once was a Corporal bold..."
  4. Quartette - Mats Munck, Dame Hecla, Sentry & Griffenfeld - "One day, the Syndic of this town..."
  5. Patter Trio - Nanna, Thora & Griffenfeld - "When a gentleman supposes that he comfortably doses..."
  6. Dancing Quartett - Thora, Nanna, Erling & Tortenssen - "So this is how you'd have us sue you..."
  7. Chorus - "Ring the bells and bang the brasses, cut the cake and fill the glasses..."
  8. Finale Act II - "Now all that we've agreed upon..."


Scenes and Settings

Time : 1807