I’ve long believed it to be one of Gilbert’s best works–yes, you read that right–and each time I listen to it, I notice new facets of it that reaffirm that belief. It may not be his best lyrically, but it contains some of his best characters and cleverest satire, in my opinion.
Maybe it is a bit too long for the theatre; although certainly it never bothered me. But I honestly think that it’s brilliant enough just as a piece of writing. (You can find the libretto here.)
I’m listening, by the way, to the 1976 D’Oyly Carte version, which is quite good except for the fact that it doesn’t include the dialogue. (I wonder if this goes back to the length issue–maybe if it had been shorter they would have included at least some of it.)