University of Rochester

EVENT: Gilbert and Sullivan Exhibition Traces their Distinctive Brand of Musical Theater from London to American Audiences

August 31, 2004

More than 200 selected pieces from a private Rochester collection dedicated to the theatrical history of the comic operas of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan will open to the public on Monday, Oct. 4, in the Rare Books and Special Collections Library at the University of Rochester. “Gilbert and Sullivan: From London to America” features photographs, programs, letters, and other materials of original productions that traveled from London to New York and other major American cities in the late 19th century.

The exhibit is on loan from the collection of Dr. Harold A. Kanthor, a Rochester pediatrician who is a dedicated collector of the varied artistic endeavors of both Gilbert, who wrote the words, and Sullivan, who composed the music, for such memorable operas as The Mikado and H.M.S. Pinafore. “For me, their literary and musical wit is unique,” said Kanthor, “and their work transcends the Victorian age, and has great appeal even in the 21st century.”

The new exhibition commemorates the original London productions of each of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, which were created from 1871 to 1896, and their earliest representations in America. Kanthor selected the items for display, searching for the offbeat as well as the expected. Among them are drawings and autograph letters of both Gilbert and Sullivan, playbills, illustrations, souvenirs from original productions, and advertising materials—from selling corsets to toothpaste—that capitalized on the popularity of Gilbert and Sullivan in America.

Kanthor, who is an alumnus of the University’s School of Medicine and Dentistry, was first intrigued by the words of Gilbert and Sullivan when he saw a student performance of The Pirates of Penzance at Brighton High School. He has been collecting Gilbert and Sullivan material for 25 years, and continues to research and purchase items. In 1986, part of his collection was shown at the University to mark the 150th anniversary of Gilbert’s birth.

“The occasion of this exhibit is especially meaningful for the library as it celebrates the finalization of an agreement designating the Rare Books and Special Collections Library as the future home of the Kanthor Gilbert and Sullivan Collection,” said Richard Peek, director of the Department of Rare Books, Special Collections, and Preservation.

Hours for the exhibit are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday; 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Wednesday; and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday. It is free and open to the public, and will continue through March 15, 2005.

The Rare Book Library is located on the second floor of Rush Rhees Library on the University’s River Campus. For more information, contact (585) 275-4477.

Note to editors: Several jpg images from the exhibit can be sent to media for limited use. Please call (585) 275-4128 or send your request to