“Topsy Turvy:” How Gilbert and Sullivan Wrote the Mikado

Gilbert and Sullivan comprise on of the most famous working teams in theatre history. With numerous success on stage from The Pirate of Penzance to H.M.S. Pinafore, the duo turned out some of the most well known music and theatre of all time. But their working relationship was a bit calamitous at times. The Indianapolis Museum of Art‘s upcoming film selection Topsy Turvy profiles their work together leading up to the creation of The Mikado, one of their best known works. Don’t miss this Indianapolis art event in the Tobias Theatre, Friday, March 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm.

The Indianapolis Opera plans to present The Mikado next season. Warm up for their illustrious performance by going behind the scenes of the opera’s creation in the film Topsy Turvy. Directed by Mike Leigh, Topsy Turvy follows the tumultuous relationship between W.S. Gilbert and Sir Arthur Sullivan in 1884 and 1885, as they worked together to conceive their next big success. A creative conflict between playwright and composer had the pair at a standstill in the collaborative process following the opening of their opera Princess Ida at the Savoy Theatre in January 1884.

The sweltering summer heat causes ticket sales of Princess Ida to wilt at the Savoy Theatre. Producer Richard D’Oyly employs the pair to create a new piece, while he revives a production of the earlier Gilbert and Sullivan work The Sorcerer. Gilbert new idea for his next libretto is suspiciously close to plot elements in The Sorcerer. Sullivan refuses to compose for the piece, longing to work on something with more “human interest.” But Gilbert will not rewrite. The pair are locked in checkmate, until Gilbert and his wife visit an exhibition of Japanese arts and crafts, inspiring him to write a libretto set in exotic Japan. The result is the creation of The Mikado.

Video: Trailer for Topsy Turvy at the IMA, Indianapolis, Indiana


The film was a critical, but not a commercial, success. Despite winning two Academy Awards for design and countless film festival awards, it failed to break even on its budget. Starring Jim Broadbent (Moulin Rouge, Bridget Jones’ Diary) as Gilbert and Allan Corduner (Vera Drake, De-Lovely) as Sullivan, Topsy Turvy is a beautiful look at Victorian England. The film runs 160 minutes and is rated R.

Tickets to this Indianapolis event are $9.00 for Indianapolis people, $5.00 for Indianapolis kids with a student ID, and $5.00 for members of this Indianapolis art museum. The film will be preceded by a discussion lead by Butler University professor and professional costume designer Wendy Meaden. Meaden will speak to the Indianapolis Opera’s costumes for their upcoming production of The Mikado and the impact of designers’ choice on the overall effect of a production.

After the film head to the nearby Indianapolis cultural district, Broad Ripple Village for a bite to eat. With a great variety of Indianapolis restaurants and Indianapolis bars, there is something for everyone in Broad Ripple Village. Stay tuned to Indianapolis News, Event and Information on Fun City Finder.com for all the latest on fun things to do in Indianapolis. We cover Indianapolis attractions to Indianapolis sports and more!

Topsy Turvy
Friday, March 12, 2010 at 7:00 pm

Indianapolis Museum of Art
4000 Michigan Rd
Indianapolis, IN 46208

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