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An Interesting Interview with Sir Arthur Sullivan
upon His American Litigation.
A cheery "Come in," and "I am very glad to see you," followed a rap at Room No. 24 at the Grand Pacific yesterday morning. The speaker was a typical Englishman between five feet five and five feet six in hight, a picture of good nature and good health, and must have tipped the beam at 175 pounds. His beard was worn close-cut, and his hair was parted exactly in the middle. He was dressed in the lightest of apparel, and altogether seemed at ease with the world which had laughed over and enjoyed "Pinafore," "Patience," "Iolanthe," and lastly "The Mikado," for the speaker was Arthur Sullivan, who had just arrived from New York on his way westward. "I am going directly to Los Angeles," he said, "where I have six nevvies and nieces ranging from 6 to 21 years. They are children of my brother, who died some years ago. They went West and invested in some property, but two months ago their mother died, when they wrote for me to come out. I shall go directly there, and may stop on my way back. It is very hot for traveling. What you take to cool off is only temporary, you know, but perhaps it is better that it is only temporary," Mr. Sullivan added with a laugh.
"There seems to be an endless muddle about ‘The Mikado.’"
"Yes; and it is extremely annoying to have it put on the way it must be here by this fellow Rosenfeld, who got all he knows about Japanese customs and everything else about the opera from a dollar score book. Why, do you know, in London the rehearsals lasted for eight weeks. We went to the Japanese Village in London, which contained 200 people and which burned down about a month ago, and brought the people to the theatre so that the production was true down even to the almost inimitable Japanese gestures. The production here must be a remarkable performance indeed, for of all the operas we have written ‘The Mikado’ requires the most from costuming and scenery."
"How did you ever find that character of Yum-Yum?"
"That was a kind of a pretty-bit, wasn’t it? Do you know some young women came to me in New York to get in ‘The Mikado’ just so they could be called Yum-Yum."
"You may be surprised to hear that ‘Pinafore’ is running this week in Chicago."
Mr. Sullivan appeared to be astounded, remarking that he did not think it could be tolerated at this late day. He then spoke of the trouble over the production in this country of his last work. "When Mr. Gilbert and myself were ready," said he, "for negotiation about ‘The Mikado,’ Mr. J.C. Duff and Mr. John Stetson came over to London to see us about the matter. We favored Mr. Duff, because he had a theatre where the piece could run if it made a success, rather than Mr. Stetson, who had but a short lease. We offered it to Mr. Duff, but he haggled about the price and desired to select his own orchestra, something I insisted upon doing myself or through my agent, which was the same thing. He finally went away, but came back in a few days and asked us for a compromise. We told him it was too late as we had in the meantime closed with Mr. Stetson on the same terms we had offered him. He has since said the production of the piece in this country was public property, but if he believed this why did he come over and offer to pay us for it? It is just as if you had sold a number of watches for $50 and had another one just like them to sell at the same price. I offer you $10, but you will not take that, when I seize the watch and go out of the reach of extradition. They denounce the greed of Carte, my agent. It is not Carte—it is myself—who desires what belongs by right to me. This is too great a country to take the work of authors for nothing."
"It is the same old question of copyright, that seems no nearer settled now than it did twenty years ago."
"Yes, it is the old question; but I think there has been a great advance. It is rubbing from American authors as well as English. Every bookstand in England is flooded with American books which have not paid their authors a cent. I do not blame the country, when it was small and had no writers read outside of it, for wishing to obtain reading at the smallest cost; but now it has become intolerable. A ring of publishers in the East has stood in the way of copyright regulations between England and America, but the publishers in the West are bringing them to favor international copyright as a protection against Western competition. I would like to have stopped off in Chicago two or three days and looked about, but this ‘Mikado’ you have here rubs the wrong way. You know what I mean. This Rosenfeld is such a —— ——, but don’t publish those words, for he could bring a libel suit against me. The piece I am sure will not be produced until the courts pass upon the points raised. I do not wish to be avaricious, but I am not above money, and what I earn by my work I believe I ought to receive. If I could dispense of the exclusive production of ‘The Mikado’ in districts, say, like the East, the West, and the Pacific Slope, the public would see far better performances than now, for newspapers would be justified in going to greater expense, and the authors would have the satisfaction of having their works produced as they were intended. As it now is there is simply loss all around, as no one ever heard of these piratical fellows making anything in the long run."
"Have you any works now in preparation?"
"The musical season is now over in London and does not begin again till October. I have the Leeds concerts and the Philharmonic concerts. These are all I have left in active musical direction. The social season, filled with all the rounds of social festivities, is now on, but they do not interest me much. No; I do not yet know how long I shall remain in the West until I learn how much time it will take to straighten out the affairs of my brother’s children."
"An Interesting Interview with Sir Arthur Sullivan upon His American Litigation." Chicago Tribune. July 14, 1885, p. 5.
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