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Princess ida

D'Oyl Carte Opera Company Recording Cover

or Castle Adamant

A respectful operatic perversion in 3 acts (2 acts and a prologue) based on Tennyson's The Princess. Book and Lyrics by W.S. Gilbert. Music by Arthur Sullivan.

Savoy Theatre, London - 5 January, 1884 (246 perfs)


Act 1

After a short orchestral introduction the curtain rises on a pavilion in the grounds of King Hildebrand's castle where the courtiers are watching for the arrival of King Gama and his daughter the Princess Ida. Some twenty years earlier Hildebrand's son Hilarion had been betrothed to the Princess ("at the extremely early age of one") and Gama is now expected to bring the girl to him. Hilarion is worried about the impending meeting with a bride he has not seen for so many years but consoles himself with the thought that at least he is no longer twice the age of his wife. Hildebrand tells him that Gama has been sighted — but without the Princess. It is rumoured that she has renounced mankind and formed a ladies college from which men are strictly barred.

King. Gama enters, preceded by his three warrior sons, Arac, Guron, and Scynthius. He is a mishapen creature and as he himself admits "such a disagreeable man". Hilarion with his friends Cyril and Florian determine to go to the Princess' castle and attempt to change her mind by wooing her. Hildebrand orders that Gama and his sons shall in the meantime be imprisoned and as the act ends they are led off to a dungeon cell.

Act 2

The second act is set in the grounds of Castle Adamant where the Professor of Humanities, Lady Psyche, is lecturing a group of graduates on the evils of the male sex. Lady Blanche, Professor of Abstract Science, arrives to announce the day's punishments closely followed by Princess Ida herself. The Princess prays to the Goddess of wisdom, Minerva, to guide her in her mighty mission. She takes up Lady Psyche's theme of Women's superiority over men before leading the girls off to their classes. Lady Blanche is left alone musing on her destiny which she is convinced is to rule the university instead of Princess Ida. She hurries off and after a few moments three inquisitive heads are seen peering over a wall. It is Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian who have just reached[ne castle aria nave crimoea in. i ney ring some undergraduate robes which they don as disguises. Princess Ida admits them to the university on the condition that they never marry men! The three "girls" solemnly accept. Lady Psyche enters and recognises her brother Florian who decides to tell her of their plan.

The secret is also shared by Lady Blanche's daughter Melissa who finds the men's rough chins and deep voices very much to her liking. The five young people are overheard by Blanche who agrees to share in the deception only on Melissa pointing out to her that if Hilarion marries Princess Ida, Blanche's destiny will be fulfilled and she will come to rule the University. The luncheon bell is heard and all the undergraduates gather for their meal. Cyril, however, drinks rather too much wine and bursts into the wooing song "Would you know the kind of maid?" The Princess is horrified and rushes to the bridge at the back of the garden. She loses her footing and falls into the stream. She is rescued by Hilarion, but far from being grateful to him orders the immediate arrest of the three "intruding spies". Melissa runs in and announces that King Hildebrand and his men are storming the castle walls. Following a brief struggle the King enters along with Arac, Guron and Scynthius who are still in chains. The Princess defies the warriors and prepares herself for battle.

Act 3

Princess Ida, Lady Psyche, Lady Blanche and Melissa are in the courtyard of Castle Adamant clad in armour and brandishing fearsome looking weapons. It appears though that despite their warlike demeanour they are terrified at the thought of the forthcoming battle. The Princess vows to remain steadfast whatever the frailties of her army. King Gama is led in complaining that he has been submitted to the most terrible torture. He has been so well looked after that he has nothing to grumble at. Gama's three sons are set to fight out the battle with Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian, and in the best Gilbertian manner they divest themselves of all their hot, heavy armour before going to fight. They are easily beaten and at this last blow Princess Ida decides to give up the university. She is sad that her dream is ended for she says "At my exalted name posterity would bow in gratitude".

Hildebrand points out to her that in a world without men there would be no posterity to bow before her. Ida appears not to have considered this small but not unimportant point and agrees to yield to Hilarion. Psyche joins up with Cyril, Melissa with Florian and all look forward to a happy future.



HILARION (his Son)

(Halarion's Friends)



(his Sons)


PRINCESS IDA (Gama's Daughter)
LADY BLANCHE (Professor of Abstract Science)
LADY PSYCHE (Professor of Humanities)
MELISSA (Lady Blanche's Daughter)

(Girl Graduates)


Soldiers, Courtiers, " Girl Graduates," " Daughters of the Plough," etc.

Musical Content


  1. CHORUS AND SOLO (Florian) " Search throughout the panorama "
  2. SONG (Hildebrand and Chorus) ." Now hearken to my strict command "
  3. RECIT. & SONG (Hilarion) " Today we meet my baby bride and I "
  4. CHORUS ." From the distant panorama "
  5. TRIO (Arac, Guron, Scynthius, and Chorus) " We are warriors three, sons of Gamma Rex "
  6. SONG (Gama) ." If you give me your attention "
  7. FINALE ACT I (Gama, Hildebrand, Hilarion, Cyril, Florian & Chorus of Girls and Men) " P'raps if you address the lady most politely "
  8. CHORUS OF GIRLS & SOLOS (Lady Psyche, Melissa, and Chloe) " Towards the empyrean heights of ev'ry kind of love "
  9. CHORUS OF GIRLS ." Mighty maiden with a mission "
  10. RECIT. & ARIA (Princess) " <inerva. Minerva, o hear ,e "
  11. SONG (Blanche) " Come mighty must! "
  12. TRIO (Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian)." Gently, gently, evgidently we are safe so far "
  13. TRIO (Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian) " I am a maiden, cold and stately "
  14. QUARTETT (Princess, Cyril, Hilarion, and Florian) " The world is but a broken toy "
  15. SONG (Lady Psyche, with Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian) " A lady fair of lineage high "
  16. QUINTET (Psyche, Melissa, Hilarion, Cyril, and Florian) " The woman of the wisest wit "
  17. DUET (Melissa and Lady Blanche) " Now wouldn't you like to rule the roost? "
  18. CHORUS OF GIRLS & SOLOS (Blanche and Cyril) " Merrily ring the luncheon bell "
  19. SONG (Cyril) " Would you know the kind of maid sets my heart aflame? "
  20. FINALE, ACT II. (Princess, Hildebrand, Melissa, Lady Psyche, Blanche, Hilarion, Cyril, Florian, Arac, Guron, Scynthius, and Chorus of Girls and Men.) " Oh! Joy, our chief is sav'd "
  21. CHORUS & SOLO (Melissa) " Death to the invader! Strike a deadly blow! "
  22. SONG (Princess) " I built upon a rock but ere destruction's hand "
  23. SONG (King Gaina, with Chorus of Girls) " Whene'er I spoke sarcastic joke "
  24. CHORUS OF LADIES & SOLDIERS " When an anger spreads his wings "
  25. SONG (Arac, with Guron, Scynthius and Chorus) "This helmet I suppose was meant to ward off blows "
  26. CHORUS DURING THE FIGHT "This is our duty plain towards "
  27. FINALE " With joy abiding together gliding "

Scenes and Settings

ACT I.—Pavilion in King Hildebrand's Palace
ACT II.—Gardens of Castle Adamant
ACT III.—Courtyard of Castle Adamant