Thespis was the very first collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan.

It was premiered at London’s Gaiety Theatre on 26 December 1871 and was advertised as ‘An entirely original Grotesque Opera in Two Acts”.

Like many productions at that theatre, it was written in a broad, burlesque style, considerably different from their later works. It was a success for a Christmas entertainment of the time and closed on 8 March 1872, after a run of 63 performances.

The libretto remains extant but the majority of the music has been lost. Sullivan re-used one of the choruses, which became ‘Climbing over rocky mountain in The Pirates of Penzance, and ‘Little Maid of Arcadee’ became popular as a Victorian parlour song.

Various attempts have been made to stage the piece over the years – often using Sullivan’s music from his other works.