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THE ZOO further reading




Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

Written by ‘Bolton Rowe’ (B C Stephenson)

Composed by Arthur Sullivan



    Visiting the Zoo, the chorus (Ladies and Gentlemen of the Great British Public) find Aesculapius Carboy trying to hang himself as the father of Lætitia Grinder, the woman he loves, has rejected him because he is a mere apothecary. Eliza Smith, in charge of the Refreshment Stall, orders Carboy to desist. Thomas Brown, who has been wooing Eliza, suspects Carboy is a rival.

    Lætitia arrives in search of Carboy and they sing a duet of reunion, whilst Eliza and Thomas Brown sing in counterpoint about all the refreshments Thomas has consumed while wooing Eliza. Thomas collapses; Carboy and the chorus offer conflicting medical advice, Thomas comes to and Carboy dispatches Eliza for a prescription. During the medical examination, Carboy uncovers the Order of the Garter and diagnoses that Thomas is a peer in disguise. Thomas explains that he has come here incognito in search of virtue and found it in Eliza.

    Lætitia’s father, Mr Grinder, appears, in search of his daughter and Carboy. They and the chorus appeal to Grinder’s finer feelings, but he has none. Carboy again resolves on suicide.

    Thomas Brown returns in all his ducal splendour and asks Eliza to marry him. She is reluctant to leave what she knows, but Thomas has bought all the animals for her!

    As they sing of their happiness, Carboy reminds us of his intended suicide. Thomas, moved by Carboy’s devotion, comes to a financial arrangement with Grinder and obtains his permission for Lætitia’s marriage to Carboy.

    All rejoice as the curtain falls!


    ACT 1

    The British public

    I loved her fondly
    Carboy and Chorus

    And now let’s go back
    Carboy, Eliza, Thomas and Chorus

    Ah maiden fair
    Eliza and Thomas


    Where is he?
    Lætitia, Thomas, Eliza and Carboy

    Once more the face
    Carboy, Lætitia, Thomas, Eliza

    Help! Ah help!
    Thomas, Carboy, Lætitia, Chorus, Eliza

    Ho Guards! Minions!
    Thomas, Lætitia, Carboy, Chorus

    Ladies and gentlemen
    Thomas and Chorus

    We gather from what you have said
    Chorus and Thomas

    Where is my daughter?
    Grinder, Eliza and Chorus

    I’m a simple little child

    My father!
    Lætitia, Carboy, Grinder, Eliza, Chorus



    Æsculapius Carboy

    Thomas Brown

    Mr. Grinder

    Lætitia Grinder

    Eliza Smith



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      Annotated libretto of The Zoo


      Newly typeset edition of the vocal score of The Zoo


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    Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players

    As with Burnand and Sullivan’s Cox and Box, The Zoo is something of a D’Oyly Carte ‘cuckoo in the nest’ as it has nothing to do with W. S. Gilbert whatsoever. The piece was first produced at the St James’ Theatre in June 1875 some 3 months after the première of Trial by Jury, and sustained a number of revivals at various theatres until 1879. Sullivan then withdrew the piece in the hope that his friend, Andy Cole, would re-write the rather inadequate libretto by B C Stephenson. However, this was not to be and the rumour that Sullivan had reused the score in later works was finally scotched in the late 1960’s when Professor Terrence Rees purchased the autograph full score at a Southerby’s auction. The opera proved to be delightfully intact and apart from one number (Carboy’s ‘I loved her fondly’ which was the obvious model for ‘A wand’ring minstrel’ (Mikado)), Sullivan had left the score untouched and unused.

    The opera made it’s first modern appearance at Fulham in 1971 partnered with a revival of Thespis and again in 1972 in a triple bill with Contrabandista and Trial by Jury. Around the same time the BBC recorded a studio performance which was subsequently broadcast on at least two occasions.

    DECCA released their recording with D’Oyly Carte in 1978.
    Sadly someone felt it necessary to add animal sound effects and a narration, delivered by Geoffrey Shovelton, which add nothing to the performance. Despite this nothing can detract from Kenneth Sandford’s remarkable performance as Thomas Brown and there is a rare chance to hear Meston Reid (a most delightful and sadly missed tenor) as Aesculapius Carboy.

    DECCA have recently repackaged this recording and it is available as a two disc set coupled with The Sorcerer. The catalogue number is 473 659-2