The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: Gilbert and Sullivan’s rarely heard “Utopia, Limited” gets a timely hearing starting this weekend from the Madison Savoyards

July 21, 2011
1 Comment

By Jacob Stockinger

Is it classical music? Or is it popular music?

Is it opera? Or is it more like a Broadway musical?

Well, I didn’t think it was classical or opera. But then a classical music teacher I highly admire and respect it was. And several important classical magazines included works by Gilbert and Sullivan (below) among classical offerings.

So who am I to disagree?

Anyway, this coming weekend sees the opening run over the next two weekends during which the venerable Madison Savoyards will present the rarely heard and rarely staged G&S show “Utopia, Limited.” Terry Kiss Frank is the stage director and Blake Walter is the music director.

Utopia Limited” is about unrequited love (not so unusual) and corporate bailouts (unusual).

After the nation’s Great Recession and Wisconsin’s Walker Spring, what could be more timely? Which also explains why that gadfly of corporate capitalism, socialist playwright, wit and vegetarian extraordinaire George Bernard Shaw, looked on it as one of his G&S favorites.

Here is the official press release, with rehearsal photos by Adam F. Brown.

WHAT: Madison Savoyards Present “Utopia, Limited”

WHEN: Fridays and Saturdays, July 22-23 and July 29-30 at 7:30 p.m. ; Sunday matinees on July 24 and July 31 at 3 p.m.

WHERE: UW Music Hall, 925 Bascom Mall (below)

HOW MUCH: $40 for premium seats; $30 for adults; $28 for seniors; $15 for students; and $5 children under 13.

For more information, visit:

You can also contact the Wisconsin Union Theater box office at (608) 262-2201. Or visit:

PLOT SUMMARY: King Paramount, of the lazy island of Utopia, has been kept in check for years by two Wise Men and the Public Exploder. If the Wise Men find that the King is remiss in any of his duties, the Public Exploder will explode the King. King Paramount sends his eldest daughter, Princess Zara, off to college in England in order to bring back their “civilized” ways back to his kingdom. Zara returns with the Flowers of Progress– some British gentlemen (including Zara’s newfound love interest) with plenty of advice on how to improve life on the tropical island.

The transformation of Utopia into a “more perfect” version of Britain unfolds.  Though it seems to become too perfect; the country is now so clean, well-behaved and peaceful that law enforcers, healthcare workers and members of the armed forces are all out of work. The King figures out a legal way to remove the checks to his monarchical powers by turning each citizen (including himself) into a limited liability company.  Since the Public Exploder cannot explode a company, he now can no longer explode the King.

While the people of Wisconsin may recognize some of their own struggles in those of Utopia’s citizens, this show promises more singing than a rally at the capitol — and perhaps more laughter than watching the news (not a palm tree out of place).  Join Madison Savoyards in their 49th season for this timely staging and see how the Utopians overcome forbidden romance and loss of power to take control of their own fate.


Madison Savoyards, Ltd. has presented fully staged productions with orchestra of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas every summer in Madison, Wisconsin since 1963.  More information about this and previous productions can be found at

Posted in Classical music

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