Carte, Richard D’Oyly

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Carte, Richard D’Oyly

English impresario; b. London, May 3, 1844; d. there, April 3, 1901. He studied at Univ. Coll. in London. He wrote an opera, Dr. Ambrosias, and later turned to music management, representing, among others, Gounod, Adelina Patti, and the tenor Mario. He then became interested in light opera and introduced in England Lecocq’s Giroflé-Girofla, Offenbach’s La Périchole, and other popular French operettas. His greatest achievement was the launching of comic operas by Gilbert and Sullivan; he commissioned and produced at the Royalty Theatre their Trial by Jury (1875) and then formed a syndicate to stage other productions of their works at the London Opéra-Comique Theatre. Dissension within the syndicate induced him to build the Savoy Theatre (1881), which subsequently became celebrated as the home of Gilbert and Sullivan productions, with Carte himself as the leading “Savoyard.” He successfully operated the Savoy Theatre until his death; the enterprise was continued by his wife (Helen Lenoir) until her death in 1913; thereafter by his sons, and finally by his grand-daughter; it was disbanded in 1982, but was revived in 1998. In 1887 Carte attempted to establish serious English opera through the building of a special theater (now known as the Palace Theatre), and the production in 1891 of Sullivan’s grand opera Ivanhoe, followed by commissions to other English composers to write operas. D’Oyly Carte introduced many improvements in theatrical management, including the replacement of gaslight by electric illumination.


F. Cellier and C. Bridgeman, Gilbert, Sullivan and d’O. C.(London, 1914).

—Nicolas Slonimsky/Laura Kuhn/Dennis McIntire