A Search Begins for Gilbert & Sullivan Manuscript of ‘Utopia Limited’

By Francisco Salazar

A search for a lost opera by Gilbert and Sullivan has begun with calls going out to people to check shelves and lofts.

According to the BBC, the original score of Gilbert and Sullivan’s “Utopia Limited” was sold in 1915 at an auction for 50 guineas to Sir Robert Hudson of Hill Hall in Essex. When Hudson died in 1927, Hill Hall went on to house prisoners-of-war, and later became a women’s prison. The score went missing and Jagger said he was convinced that “it survived and is sitting on a shelf somewhere.”

Musical researcher Colin Jagger noted, “The (current) score (of Utopia Limited) is completely unreliable. The only way (to be sure) is to go to Sullivan’s autograph manuscript. It seemed to me that the time is long overdue to give these materials proper editions which are free.”

The report also noted that there is a current project to restore the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas and that the project cannot be completed until the manuscript is found. According to the BBC, “when the operas were first created, copyright law, as understood today, barely existed, and so the company that performed the works, D’Oyly Carte, kept tight control of the scores and any copies. The versions used today often reflect how D’Oyly Carte performed the works, rather than Gilbert and Sullivan’s original intentions. Some songs have disappeared altogether and, Jagger says, the scores have a multitude of omissions, changes, and mistakes.”