Mme Ilka von Palmay was the Hungarian soprano whom Sullivan had to enjoin from appearing in the role of Nanki-Poo in "The Mikado" in Germany in 1893. In 1895 she appeared with the Ducal Court Company of Saxe-Coburg and Gotha in five performances of "Der Vogethiindter" at Drury Lane. Gilbert saw her and hired her to play Julia Jellicoe in "The Grand Duke", a role which he expanded considerably and tailored to her special talents. When she began her work at the Savoy, it surprised her to learn that no woman had ever appeared on that stage dressed as a man.
She had to sign a two-year contract with Richard D'Oyly Carte, and after "The Grand Duke" closed she appeared as Elsie in "The Yeomen of the Guard" in 1897. Sullivan, however, was not happy about her performance, and she was released from her contract and replaced by Ruth Vincent.