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New Savoy Opera

A Chat with Sir Arthur Sullivan

"I am most anxious that the public should understand that the forthcoming Savoy piece is an entirely new departure," said Sir Arthur Sullivan to a "Daily Mail" representative yesterday, over the tea-cups in his flat in Victoria-street.

"It is most important that they should know what they are going to see.  In the first place the work is not a comic opera.  It is a serious earnest, romantic drama, in which the dialogue and action are both as important as the music.  The musical numbers arise in operatic libretto terms, but the sequence of the musical numbers, whether songs, trios, or quartettes, never interferes with the dramatic necessities of the play.

"Mind, I don’t mean to say that there is no humour in the piece — there is a delicate humour throughout.  But there are no comic songs or numbers, in the ordinary acceptation of the term.  The story is serious and romantic — even as the novels of Mr. Anthony Hope and Mr. Stanley Weyman are serious and romantic.  The score although not as heavy as that of ‘Ivanhoe,’ has taken me

MORE TIME AND HARDER WORK

than anything I have done for some time.  You will appreciate the difficulty of making a thing earnest and serious, and yet endeavouring to be neither heavy nor dull."

"And what about the rehearsals?"

"So far as I am entitled to express an opinion," said Sir Arthur, "I think the performance will be admirable.  The nature of the piece, the character of the music — these require singers.  Even our comedians, Messrs. Passmore and Lytton, are most excellent musicians, which is a very rare and a very fortunate thing for all of us.  We have three new-comers in the cast — Miss Pauline Joran — whom you have heard at Covent Garden — and two young American singers, Messrs. Isham and Devoll, who are intelligent, gifted, and of great promise.

"I am very hopeful about the piece, because I think the public may welcome something of

A NOVEL CHARACTER

on the stage.  And I insist that this piece, at any rate in form, is an absolute novelty.  Here you have a strong plot and dialogue written by Mr. Arthur Pinero — surely the most brilliant dramatist of our day in London — and lyrics by Mr. Comyns Carr, a man of strong poetical feeling, and, above all, a scholar.

"I have only to add that I have tried to do my share of the work with the most scrupulous and exacting care.  Voilà tout!"

Before our representative left, Sir Arthur played some of the numbers, and showed some of his daintily transcribed score — absolutely pretty and delicate in notation.  One chorus is especially haunting in melody, and contrapuntally, of course, brilliant.

For Sir Arthur Sullivan was the first composer to elaborate counterpoint in the lighter forms of music — witness the juxtaposition, contrapuntally treated, in the policeman’s chorus in "The Pirates of Penzance."


"New Savoy Opera:  A Chat with Sir Arthur Sullivan."  Daily Mail no. 638, Tue. May 17, 1898, p. 3.


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