It's Iolanthe, the most directly political of the G&S operas, with Gilbert's most direct attack on the class system he belonged to, and Sullivan's most hilarious use of music to highlight pomposity. And their most topsy-turvy plot of all - the fairies vs the House of Peers. Guess who wins.
It all starts with a weakening of the Fairie Law - Iolanthe is pardoned by the Fairie Queen (somewhat illogically) for marrying a mortal. The rest follows (with a lot of commentary on the human law ('the true embodiment of everything that's excellent') and how it works to control the 'lower middle classes'.
Full synopsis and lots of wonderful illustrations and side stories on the gsarchive site here. Of all the G&S operas, this offered most fun for the matchless costume designer.
Thus transported to the equally ridiculous worlds of fairies and the Victorian House of Lords, we are going further, to the world of Canadian fairies, commenting on Victorian England!
Our viewing this week is of the amazingly cheeky production for the Stratford Festival in Canada. It's on YouTube in two halves - First half here. Second half here. You need to adjust to some Canadian accents and references "Oh CBC... Oh, Knowlton Nash" but there have surely never been such fun fairies. There's a video here on YouTube on the making of the Stratford production.
By contrast, for a seriously funny traditional performance, there's a terrible recording on YouTube of a splendid early OA performance from the Sydney Opera House, - the brilliant Dennis Olsen as Lord Chancellor and Heather Begg as Queen of the Fairies, June Bronhill and Lyndon Terracini - would you believe - as lovers Phyllis and Strephon. Here's Olsen's Lord Chancellor on the Law... and here's his nightmare song.
As always, with G&S, you really must get Gilbert's words. The full libretto is on the gsarchive site. Read to the end to see the missing song - Gilbert withdrew it - when Strephon reflects on his achievements in making parliament a place of honest debate by intelligent leaders. Sigh.
Below is my printable version of the words of those hit songs!