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Improvising Imperialism: The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in Ireland and South Africa

Wednesday 3 November 2021, 4.30PM

Speaker(s): Dr Eleanor Lybeck (University of Liverpool)

Chair: Dr Bryan Radley 

When the baritone Rutland Barrington first performed ‘When Britain Really Ruled the Waves’ on the opening night of Gilbert and Sullivan’s Iolanthe in November 1882, the British Empire was on course to become the largest the world had ever known. Gilbert and Sullivan’s producer, Richard D’Oyly Carte, was never a man to miss a business opportunity and rapidly transformed the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company (DCC) into a global performing arts corporation. Productions mounted on the Savoy Theatre stage were replicated in every fine detail across almost every continent by touring repertory companies managed down to the last pair of chorus girls’ stockings from the London HQ. In this talk, Dr Eleanor Lybeck outlines the parameters for her next major research project, ‘D’Oyly Carte’s Empires’. The project represents the first extensive study of the DCC’s touring operations, covering the period 1870 to 1950. Her focus will be on DCC activity in Ireland and South Africa at the turn of the century, and the extent to which the strict rules regarding improvisation were adhered to by actors, directors, and stage managers on the touring circuit.   

'Dr Eleanor Lybeck is a lecturer in literature based between the Institute of Irish Studies and the Department of English at the University of Liverpool. Her first monograph, All on Show, traced the circus as a motif in Irish writing from the mid-eighteenth century to the present day. Alongside her academic research and teaching, Eleanor co-directs the production company Sidelong Glance and is currently completing an adaptation for the stage of Virginia Woolf’s final novel, Between the Acts. Eleanor was named an AHRC/BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker in 2017 and has been variously involved in broadcasts on literary and cultural subjects for Radio 3 and 4.

Please click here for the Zoom link 


Location: Online via Zoom