Arthur Sullivan

Arthur Sullivan (cond., 1875-1899)

[Born Lambeth, London 13 May 1842, died London 22 Nov 1900]

Arthur Seymour Sullivan was closely associated with Richard D'Oyly Carte and the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company from the first night of Trial by Jury at the Royalty Theatre in 1875 until Sullivan's death in 1900.

Sullivan wrote the music for sixteen comic operas after Trial by Jury, all for the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, plus much for a seventeenth (The Emerald Isle) that was completed after his death by Edward German.  One of his earler efforts, the one-act "triumverata" Cox and Box (1866), was added to the D'Oyly Carte repertoire in 1894.

Sullivan's operas were invariably produced in London under his "personal supervision," and he is known to have conducted performances for the Company on the following occasions:

25 Mar 1875 Opening night, Trial by Jury, Royalty Theatre, London
17 Nov 1877 Opening night, The Sorcerer, Opera Comique, London
25 May 1878 Opening night, H.M.S. Pinafore, Opera Comique, London
1 Dec 1879 First performance, H.M.S. Pinafore, Fifth Ave. Theatre, New York
31 Dec 1879 Opening night, The Pirates of Penzance, Fifth Ave. Theatre, New York
9 Feb 1880 First performance, The Pirates of Penzance, Philadelphia
16 Feb 1880 First performance, The Pirates of Penzance, Newark, N.J.
21 Feb 1880 First performance, The Pirates of Penzance, Buffalo, N.Y.
3 Apr 1880 First performance, The Pirates of Penzance, Opera Comique, London
23 Apr 1881 Opening night, Patience, Opera Comique, London
10 Oct 1881 Theatre opening, Patience, Savoy Theatre, London
24 Apr 1882 Anniversary performance, Patience, Savoy Theatre, London
25 Nov 1882 Opening night, Iolanthe, Savoy Theatre, London
5 Jan 1884 Opening night, Princess Ida, Savoy Theatre, London
11 Oct 1884 First revival, The Sorcerer (with Trial by Jury), Savoy Theatre, London
14 Mar 1885 Opening night, The Mikado, Savoy Theatre, London
24 Sep 1885 Gala performance, The Mikado, Fifth Ave. Theatre, New York
22 Jan 1887 Opening night, Ruddygore, Savoy Theatre, London
12 Nov 1887 First revival, H.M.S. Pinafore, Savoy Theatre, London
7 Jun 1888 First revival, The Mikado, Savoy Theatre, London
3 Oct 1888 Opening night, The Yeomen of the Guard, Savoy Theatre, London
7 Dec 1889 Opening night, The Gondoliers, Savoy Theatre, London
24 Sep 1892 Opening night, Haddon Hall, Savoy Theatre, London
7 Oct 1893 Opening night, Utopia (Limited), Savoy Theatre, London
12 Dec 1894 Opening night, The Chieftain, Savoy Theatre, London
6 Nov 1895 Second revival, The Mikado, Savoy Theatre, London
7 Mar 1896 Opening night, The Grand Duke, Savoy Theatre, London
31 Oct 1896 Gala celebrating 1,000th performance of The Mikado, Savoy Theatre, London
28 May 1898 Opening night, The Beauty Stone, Savoy Theatre, London
17 Nov 1898 21st anniversary performance, The Sorcerer, Savoy Theatre, London
6 Jun 1899 Second revival, H.M.S. Pinafore (with Trial by Jury), Savoy Theatre, London
11 Nov 1899 Opening night, The Rose of Persia, Savoy Theatre, London

Sullivan also wrote his grand opera Ivanhoe for D'Oyly Carte.  It was produced at the Royal English Opera House in 1891.  Earlier (in 1889) Carte had invited him, and Sullivan had accepted the invitation, to be one of the Directors of the Savoy Hotel.

Sullivan's allegiance with the Cartes was strained in later years, but never broken.  Like W. S. Gilbert, he felt unfairly treated at times.  He was especially hurt by the Cartes' heavy handedness in the firing of Ellen Beach Yaw after two weeks of The Rose of Persia, and his own powerlessness over the situation.  He wrote in his diary "Well, I have no voice in the management and claim none, and so long as that unfortunate agreement which I signed unwittingly exists, I shall never consider myself more than a paid 'piece work' composer."

Sullivan's operas produced for other managers included The Contrabandista (book by F. C. Burnand, St. George's Hall, 1867), Thespis (book by Gilbert, Gaiety Theatre, 1871), and The Zoo (book by B. C. Stephenson, St. James's Theatre, 1875).   He also wrote incidental music for the theatre:his music for The Tempest (1861) launched his career as a serious composer.  His classical compositions included a symphony (1866); two ballets, L'Ile Enchantee (1864) and Victoria and Merrie England (1897); and the choral works Kenilworth (1865), The Prodigal Son (1869), On Shore and Sea (1871), The Light of the World (1873), The Martyr of Antioch (1880), and The Golden Legend (1886).

In 1876 Sullivan became principal of the National Training School for Music (later the Royal College of Music), a post he held for five years.  He was also an active conductor, notably at the Leeds Musical Festivals from 1880 to 1898.  Sullivan was knighted on May 22, 1883, for his contributions to British Music.

Sullivan and his works have been the subject of several books, one of which, "Sir Arthur Sullivan: Life Story, Letters, and Reminiscences" by Arthur Lawrence, was published during his lifetime and with his cooperation.  Sullivan is also credited with authoring a brief autobiography that appeared in a collection ("In the Days of Our Youth") edited by T. P. O'Connor in 1901, but that was probably ghost written.  For analyses of Sullivan the musician, see Gervase Hughes's "The Music of Arthur Sullivan" (London, Macmillan, 1960) and Percy Young's "Sir Arthur Sullivan" (London, J. M. Dent, 1971).  The definitive Sullivan life is Arthur Jacobs' "Arthur Sullivan: A Victorian Musician," first published by Oxford University Press in 1984.

He was the younger brother of Frederic Sullivan and the first cousin of Rose Hervey, Jennie Hervey, and Kate Sullivan, all of whom appeared with the D'Oyly Carte organization.

Page modified April 3, 2003© 2001-03 David Stone