Princess Ida

opéra comique

Princess Ida; or, Castle Adamant is a three-act operetta by Gilbert and Sullivan. It is the eighth of their fourteen operettas. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre in London, England on 5 January 1884. It had 246 performances, a short run compared with the team's other operettas. After the operetta closed, it was not revived in London until 1919.

Princess Ida
Henry Bracy.jpeg
Welsh tenor Henry Bracy dressed as Hilarion
Written byW. S. Gilbert (words)
Arthur Sullivan (music)
CharactersPrincess Ida
King Gama
King Hildebrand
Lady Blanche
Lady Psyche
Date of premiere5 January 1884
Place of premiereSavoy Theatre
London, England
Original languageEnglish
SubjectGender roles
Women's education
SettingWomen's college in the Middle Ages

Gilbert based Princess Ida on a play he wrote in 1870 called The Princess. This play was based, in turn, on The Princess, a long poem of 1847 by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Ida is the only Gilbert and Sullivan operetta in three acts. It is their only operetta to be written in blank verse.

Princess Ida was a great success with early audiences, but the critics did not like it. Sullivan told Gilbert three weeks after the opening that he would not write another comic opera, and it appeared their collaboration was over. Princess Ida has its roots in the work of a poet little read today, and its themes are somewhat dated. The operetta is not a modern audience favorite.


In her babyhood, Princess Ida was betrothed to Prince Hilarion. In her young womanhood however, she has forsaken the company of men and has set up an all-female university. Hilarion and two of his friends, Cyril and Florian, gain entrance to the school disguised as women. They are discovered, and war ensues. As the casualties mount, Princess Ida relents and accepts Hilarion as her husband to be.


  • Bradley, Ian. 2001. The Complete Annotated Gilbert and Sullivan. Oxford University Press. pp. 451-453.
  • Brahms, Caryl. 1975. Gilbert and Sullivan: lost chords and discords. Little, Brown. pp. 123-136.