Richard D'Oyly Carte formed the Comedy Opera Company in 1876 with the help of funding from George Metzler, Frank Chappell, Augustus Collard Drake and Edward Hodgson Bayley, who would become its directors. The Company produced its first Gilbert and Sullivan work, The Sorcerer at the Opera Comique in 1877 (D'Oyly Carte was the lessee of the theatre at the time).
The original agreement between Gilbert and Sullivan and the Comedy Opera Comedy expired in July 1879, after which D'Oyly Carte persuaded them that a new partnership with him would be advantageous to all three men. The directors of the Comedy Opera Company brought legal action against the trio in an effort to retain performance rights over the Gilbert and Sullivan works they had produced. The new partnership, soon to be called the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, won the case and from 1 August 1879 became the sole authorised producers of Gilbert and Sullivan works.