Materials related to the Comedy Opera Company and related court cases, 1877-1879

Scope and Content

Legal and financial materials, correspondence and items relating to the formation and work of the Comedy Opera Company. A number of items in this series were used as evidence in court cases.

All materials are originals, unless otherwise stated at file level.

Administrative / Biographical History

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.


The correspondence, agreements and memoranda in this series were kept separately from the correspondence, agreements and memoranda found elsewhere in the collection when organised by Bridget D'Oyly Carte. Presumably this served to mark them as being of particular significance.

Further correspondence may be found in the dedicated correspondence series THM/73/14. It is possible that selected materials within this series might refer to the Comedy Opera Company era but have not been catalogued to item level.

Custodial History

A number of original pieces of correspondence have contemporary notes attached, possibly made during Rupert D'Oyly Carte's tenure as manager. They contain brief synopses of the the letters with details of their use during legal proceedings (where relevant) and make references to an old filing or cataloguing system for which we have no further information.