Jim Stebbings first explained that the term ‘topsy-turvy’ in a Gilbert and Sullivan context came from a poem Gilbert had written where everything is ‘upside down and back to front’. This concept in a G&S context is first seen in Trial By Jury (1875) where the judge marries the female plaintiff. This theme recurs in many of their other pieces, as in Ruddigore (1887), where the hero becomes evil and the villain becomes good, and so on.
Jim outlined the careers of G & S, commencing with Thespis (1871), the score of which is lost! Trial by Jury also introduced the ‘patter song’; perhaps the most famous of such songs is ‘I am the very model of a modern major general’ from The Pirates of Penzance (1879). Pirates had followed HMS Pinafore (1878) which introduced satire into the theatre, in this case satirising the appointment of the First Lord of the Admiralty (a certain W H Smith!), who had truly never been to sea!
Jim spoke about all the 14 G & S operas and also about impresario Richard D’Oyly who built the Savoy Theatre and the Savoy Hotel. He mentioned also the fractious relationship between the three partners who nevertheless left an astonishing legacy of music and written work.