Links to the different times
we have performed this show:
This little one act musical folly was shrouded in mystery for many years. Obviously overshadowed by the première of Trial by Jury just three months earlier, The Zoo opened on 5 June, 1875, at the St. James' Theatre, transferred to the Haymarket on 28 June and finally closed on 10 July.
This was not the end of the work's performance history as it was revived on 2 October 1875 at the Philharmonic Theatre where it ran for a further month, and then reappeared again at the Royalty Theatre on 14 April 1879 where it ran until 3 May.
That Sullivan himself must have thought something of this little piece is evidenced by the fact that the composer, when a revival was being considered in 1877, asked his great friend Andy Cole, if he would be interested in rewriting the libretto. This was obviously never done.
After the 1879 revival, the manuscript disappeared from view for almost 90 years, and many writers, without any foundation for their comments, insisted that the music of this delightful piece had been reused by Sullivan in his later works with Gilbert and with others.
Dr. Terence Rees was able to dispel this myth when, in 1966, he purchased the manuscript score (which had resurfaced in an auction room), and found the piece intact, and that no material had been reused. Thanks to Dr. Rees' efforts and the efforts of a number of other enthusiasts, The Zoo once again took to the stage in a hilarious production by Fulham Light Opera in 1971, and has since become popular amongst Gilbert and Sullivan companies as a curtain raiser to the shorter operas.
Although never revived professionally on stage, the D'Oyly Carte opera company made a complete recording of the work in 1978 which has since been transferred to Compact Disc as a partner for the same company's 1967 recording of The Sorcerer. The Zoo has also been recorded by the B.B.C., and broadcast on a number of occasions.
B.C. Stephenson, writing on this occasion under the pseudonym of 'Bolton Rowe', is perhaps better known as the librettist of the comic opera Dorothy, which gave The Mikado such a run for it's money in 1885-7.
Carboy (a love-lorn pharmacist) loves Laetitia, but is prevented from marrying her by her father,
Mr. Grinder, a hard-hearted grocer.
Convinced that he has accidentally poisoned Laetita, Carboy
tries to hang himself, but is prevented by Eliza, the owner o f the refreshment stall.
appears, very much alive, but their reconciliation is cut short by the arrival of her father,
Mr. Grinder. Carboy leaves to throw himself into the bear pit!
Eliza is being wooed by Thomas Brown, in reality the Duke of Islington in disguise. To prove his
love he over-eats from her stall and faints. While Eliza fetches a prescription, his true identity
is discovered by the chorus.
He proposes to Eliza on her re turn and she accepts, on the condition
that he buys all the animals at the Zoo to take home with them!
Carboy emerges from the bear pit;
they have moved the bears whilst doing repairs, another failed suicide attempt! But before he can
feed himself to the lions, Thomas Brown intervenes, and Mr. Grinder's objections to the marriage
of Laetitia and Carboy are overcome by a large bribe. Thus all, of course, ends happily.