Date of this Version
Documentary Editing: Journal of the Association for Documentary Editing, Volume 31: 2010 ISSN 0196-7134
The critical edition of the “Savoy Operas” of W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan provides a useful example of the ways in which scholarly editions of performing works can alter important elements of the sources on which they are based. The accepted form for the presentation of a critical edition of an opera is the “full score,” but for no Savoy Opera did a real full score ever exist—nor was one ever intended. The sources closest to full scores were the copying masters that Sullivan prepared for use by copyists extracting parts for performers, but these are skeletons into which Sullivan often did not enter revisions. In preparing critical texts of Savoy Operas, editors have been obliged to take different elements of the text from different sources: the instrumental parts from Sullivan’s holographs (with ambiguities clarified by surviving early band parts); the vocal lines and underlaid words from printed vocal scores; and the dialogue and stage directions from printed libretti. Thus are created full scores that not only “never were” but that were never intended.