Personalities | Arthur Sullivan | Turn of the Century | Opera

1842–1900, English

Sullivan’s name is synonymous with that of librettist W. S. Gilbert in England. It is their association with Richard D’Oyly Carte and the succession of operettas written for the Savoy Theatre that continue to ensure that Gilbert and Sullivan remain household names. Sullivan’s aim, however, after education at the Royal Academy of Music in London and the Leipzig Conservatory, was to write serious music on serious subjects. The collaboration between Gilbert and Sullivan began with Thespis in 1871 and continued into the 1870s when D’Oyly Carte requested a piece for the Royalty Theatre. The resulting work, Trial by Jury (1875), was a great success and set the seal on their partnership.

The combination of Gilbert’s wit and Sullivan’s lightness of touch and melodic facility proved irresistible and the pair had countless successes. Difficulties were never far from the surface, however. The first serious rift was repaired to produce what many regard as their finest work, The Mikado, and they continued to collaborate well until The Gondoliers. Another row followed and, though there was further collaboration, nothing compared with their earlier work. It remained for Sullivan to fulfil his desire and, in 1891, Ivanhoe, to a libretto by Julian Sturgis after the Walter Scott novel, was premiered at the Royal Opera House in London. It proved a sturdy piece and received 161 performances. However, its dramatic weaknesses stand against it and it has achieved no longevity.

Introduction | Turn of the Century | Opera
Major Operas | The Mikado by Arthur Sullivan | Turn of the Century
Major Operas | The Gondoliers by Arthur Sullivan | Turn of the Century
​Personalities | Giovanni Verga | Turn of the Century | Opera
Techniques | Operetta | Turn of the Century | Opera


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