„In the Purgatory of Tradition“

Arthur Sullivan and the English Musical Renaissance

by Meinhard Saremba

[This article is an updated version of Meinhard Saremba's talk on this topic at the International Conference in Berlin about the British-German Musical Relationships in July 2000.]

For me all good music is serious music.
Leonard Bernstein

We had to be in the Abbey for the coronation [of Queen Elizabeth II.] by a very early hour next day [...] Outside the Abbey it looked as if an enormous cast were assembling for "Iolanthe". Peers, their robes hooked over their arms, were searching for peeresses, or gossiping with each other. We met a friend who had been with the Royal party, splendid in white satin and diamonds, so I gave her a deep curtsey, "Bow, bow ye lower middle classes", I said, but only Ralph knew what I was talking about.

Ursula Vaughan Williams

Jesting decides great things

Stronglier, and better

oft than earnest can.

John Milton (after Horace)

In a period rich in symbolic meaning and laden with meaningful gestures Hubert Parrys Invocation to Music, premièred in 1895, was to exercise a profound and lasting influence on English composers. "Myriad voicèd Queen! Enchantress of the air! / Bride of the life of man! / For thee with tuneful reed, with string and horn, / And high-adoring choir, a welcome we prepare!" is the beginning of Robert Bridges' text, sung by the chorus. The muse of music, who had abandoned the British Isles, is appealed to in order to return to the country and to bring back the blessings of her art, making again "our Graces three".

"Return, O Muse!" beg the soloist and the chorus again and again, but - one might ask - had Parry forgotten that She had already made herself comfortable for more than thirty years?

In April 1862 Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900) began his successful career in the concert hall and the opera house. Nevertheless since the topic of the conference concentrates on the musical relationships between Britain and Germany from 1920 until 1950 one might wonder what a composer such as Sullivan has to do with it who had been already dead for twenty years when this period started? But since these decades were also crucial for the breakthrough of English opera, one might also ask why wasn't Arthur Sullivan one of the leading figures in the English repertoire? And why don't the Germans identify Sullivan's musical wit with English opera as they connect the sparkling rhythms of Rossini with opera Italian style?

There was hardly any musician of the English-speaking world who did not have any contact with the works of Arthur Sullivan. What Sir Charles Mackerras remembers about the influence of Sullivan's music on a developing young musician's mind may stand for others. "Most English-speaking musicians of my generation and earlier first became aware of the techniques of classical music through the Gilbert and Sullivan operas", Mackerras wrote. "My parents and grandparents knew all the operas by heart, music and dialogue. I myself came to an appreciation of operas like Carmen, Faust (Berlioz and Gounod), Aida and the Meistersinger by way of similar techniques employed in a simpler form by Sullivan. (Think of the overture to Iolanthe, the great double choruses in The Pirates of Penzance, Patience and Ruddigore and arias like 'Poor wand'ring one' and ''Tis done! I am a bride!'.) Sullivan of course, was really the pioneer who led England away from its reputation as 'Das Land ohne Musik', to take its place in the second half of the 20th century as one of the leading musical countries of the world."1 Charles Mackerras was born in 1925 and he is not only a leading expert on Handel, Mozart and Janácek but also the president of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society.

Taking into consideration this kind of influence the question could well be: If reservervations towards Sullivan are still with us, where do they come from? What had happened in the 20th century that led to an almost complete neglect of Sullivan by the so-called "serious" musicians?

Since a lot of these events were overlapping and giving rise to each other, let us throw light upon some of them from various angles. After examining the status of Sullivan in the repertoire and music history we are going to have a closer look at some obstacles to a serious reception of his achievements, concentrating on two main reasons for Sullivan's offside position: copyright law and character assassination.

Music as a Bridge?

Strange enough, the best-known opera house in England, the Covent Garden Opera, did not provide a home for English opera until the 1950s, opening its gates for Sullivan not until April 1995 when The Yeomen of the Guard was performed by the Welsh National Opera conducted by Sir Charles Mackerras.2

While for decades Covent Garden remained a stronghold of Italian, French and German opera, it was only through Lilian Baylis' initiative that opera in English was introduced at London's Old Vic Theatre after the First World War.3 While having no permanent company, Baylis and her supporters managed to establish a repertoire with operas sung in English, among them the Verdi-Puccini-standard repertoire and a Mozart cycle with new translations by Edward J. Dent. When the newly formed Sadler's Wells Opera and Ballet opened the Sadler's Wells Theatre in Rosebery Avenue on 6th January 1931, the works of Arthur Sullivan could have filled the important repertoire section of original English operas with brilliant comic works. With bizarre parodies such as The Mikado and Iolanthe or comedies with a human face such as The Yeomen of the Guard with its introducing light fanfare reminiscent of the Meistersinger-ouverture, England could have fostered a composer still well-known on the continent. Unfortunately, they were not allowed to play the works due to copyright reasons, so that apart from some ephemeral successes with Purcell's Dido and Aeneas, they had to help themselves with stopgaps inferior to Sullivan's achievements such as the so-called "English Ring" (Wallace's Maritana, Benedict's The Lily of Killarney and Balfe's The Bohemian Girl).4 A regular repertoire could only be established with the help of The Bartered Bride, The Daughter of the Regiment, Hansel and Gretel, Samson and Delilah and The Flying Dutchman. Only little by little new works were tested such as Benjamin's The Devil Take Her (1932), Smyth's The Boatswain's Mate and the premières of Collingwood's Macbeth (1934), Stanford's The Travelling Companion and Holst's Savitri (1935), Vaughan Williams' Hugh the Drover (1937), Smyths The Wreckers (1939) as well as The Beggar's Opera, Arne's Thomas and Sally and once again Purcell's Dido and Aeneas (1941). The vacuum in the field of great English opera composers was filled later when Benjamin Britten entered the scene with Peter Grimes which, as Britten put it, "broke the ice for English opera".5

An overview of the national origins of the operas presented at Sadler's Wells6 reveals not only the domination of foreign works but especially the lack of a full-blooded and experienced English opera composer such as Sullivan:

[see table 1]

1931-44 (Sadler's Wells)

1945-61 (after Peter Grimes)

1962-68 (after end of G&S copyright)

1968-84 (English National Opera)













































































Compared to Bohemia and Moravia, the repertoire of the National Theatres in Prague and Brno shows how the Czech fostered their great opera composers7:

[see tables 2 and 3]

A) Number of performances





















































































B) Number of Operas





















































































Number of Operas (National Theatre in Brno)














































Taking into consideration the strong emphasis on Czech or (in Germany and Austria) German opera we can come to the conclusion that there was hardly any serious interst in opera on the British Isles. In Great Britain opera did not strengthen the national identity in the same way as Moravia, Bohemia and the German-speaking countries.

Guarding the Immortals

Until the 1st January 1962, i.e. fifty years after the authors' death, Arthur Sullivan's best operatic achievements were excluded from the national opera's repertoire. The isolated world where Sullivan's theatrical works were kept alive was the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company. It was for artistic and monetary reasons that this Company was founded in August 1879. What was designed as a protection against unauthorized versions of the comic operas by Sullivan and Gilbert (especially in North America), securing an equally high standard of production and musical interpretation, turned into a burden for the operas in later years. The D'Oyly Carte Company refused the works to be performed by any other professional company making it impossible to establish a creative preoccupation with the Gilbert & Sullivan heritage. They let lots of amateurs in performing societies have their way because they provided a pool of addicts but excluded any serious competition. And in some cases these "seltsamen 'Gralshüter' als die sich die Lenker der Sullivan-Gesellschaft gefallen"8 (the rulers of the Sullivan Society fancying themselves in the role of these strange people fancying themselves in the role of 'keepers of the Holy Grail') allowed foreign theatres to present the operas.

As a writer and stage director, Gilbert (1836-1911) set a standard during his and Sullivan's life-time, but in the long run monoculture had a detrimental effect. Gilbert's stage book became a bible for the following D'Oyly Carte productions ignoring the fact that one cannot revive the spirit of movements and gestures of past generations. Routine in the worst sense of the word and the amateur tradition also led to declining musical standards. A review of a Sullivan programme at the London Music Festival in May 1939, which required special permission from the copyright holders, expressed what was required: "A large audience at the London Museum last night was able to hear what the Gilbert and Sullivan operas might sound like if their production were free of the present hampering restrictions - if, that is to say, anybody of first class musicians were allowed to perform them. Every hoary devotee can rarely have heard Sullivan's music played with the finish that the augmented Boyd Neel Orchestra [under the baton of Malcolm Sargent] brought to it. It is only when we treat Sullivan with the same artistic respect that we show to Mozart and Schubert that his peculiar genius can shine untarnished."9

Nevertheless, the lovers of "G & S", as people used to call the creative team familiarly, became an insulated society of old friends. Excluded from the world of the general opera lover they established a world of their own. In the Daily Telegraph William A. Darlington dealt with the various circles of "G & S"-addicts. "The audience can be divided by rough analysis into three rings", he wrote. "The outer one, to which I belong myself, consists of ordinary catholic-minded playgoers who, while having a strong liking for Savoy opera, do not rank it above other delights the theatre has to offer. [...] The second ring consists of devotees. These are people who, if directly tackeled, would certainly admit that Savoy opera does not, in their opinion, represent the very highest point of the very highest dramatic art; most of them would, however, in honesty add, 'But I'm no highbrow - G. and S. is good enough for me.' And indeed, G. and S. is good enough to become for all of them a life-long hobby and for some a sparetime job. As for the innermost ring, which is really more like a hard core, it consists of fanatical addicts. They seem to believe that Savoy opera was originally handed down from some sort of Sinai, and is all - to a word, to a note, to a gesture - utterly sacrocant, in the highest perfection that dramatic art can reach. Together these three divisions constitute an audience which, according to how you look at it, is one of the best or one of the worst in the world."10

Not until the copyright expired fifty years after the death of the authors it was the Sadler's Wells Opera Company which performed Iolanthe on 1st January 1962, taking The Mikado into the repertoire several months later. Other theatres, e.g. Scottish Opera with The Gondoliers, followed the example. An extensive press coverage dealt with this decisive change in the reception of Sullivan's stage works, most of them in favour of the forthcoming "revolution" in staging and musical standards. The operas "must be presented as still-vigorous period-pieces, but with contemporary resources and approach", commented The Stage, "just as Wieland Wagner has modernised the treatments of his grandfather's music-dramas."11

Considering some production of Sadler's Wells Opera's successor, the English National Opera, this has become true to some extent for England.12 On an international level Sullivan does not yet have the place he deserves, as one of the great composers of comic opera next to the artist he himself referred to as the major inspiration for his stage works: Rossini.13

Declining Fame

In the first Sullivan biography by Arthur Lawrence, published in 1899, and in press interviews, Sullivan often referred to the model of his comic operas. "I think that he first inspired me with a love for the stage and things operatic", said Sullivan, speaking of Rossini14. "Up to the time from his death I continued to visit Rossini every time I went over to Paris, and nothing occurred to interfere with the cordiality of our friendship."15

Sullivan first met Rossini, who died in 1868, in Paris in 1962, the year after his return from the Leipzig Conservatoire. Strange enough most of the other important influences on Sullivan's works were ignored in the years to come.

Besides Rossini there are:

- the tradition of English music

(such as choral music, songs, madrigals, oratorio)

- opera in English

(Purcell, Balfe, Wallace, Benedict)

(Sullivan: "England has thus, so far, the chance of again assuming the position that she held many hundred years ago of being at the head of Europe as a musical country."16 )

- the German tradition

(Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schubert, Schumann)

(Sullivan: "I cannot understand the reason why the Critics, and in consequence, musicians themselves, should be so prejudiced against that unfortunate composer; at the very name of Schumann an English musician draws back alarmed, shrugs his shoulders, and mutters a few words about Zukunftsmusik, Weimar, etc.."17 )

- his studies in Leipzig

(Sullivan: "Besides increasing and maturing my judgement of music it has taught me how good works ought to be done. They have no idea in England of making the orchestras play with that degree of light and shade to which they have attained here, and that is what I aim at - to bring the English orchestra to the same perfection as the Continental ones, and to even still greater, for the power and tone of ours are much greater than the foreign.""18 )

- the composer Franz Liszt (1811-1886), whom he met in Leipzig and who invited him to Weimar to see the comic opera Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius (premièred 1858). Later Sullivan accompagnied Liszt through London during his stay in 1886.

- the repertoire of the Leipzig opera house

featuring important comic and romantic operas by Albert Lortzing and Otto Nicolai, written in the native language. Besides those there were many works by Rossini, Mozart etc. How deep Sullivan's knowledge and admiration for these works was is revealed by the facts that he encouraged the English première of The Barber of Bagdad with students of the Royal College of Music at the Savoy Theatre, and that he was sole editor of the "dramma giocoso" Don Giovanni and Rossinis Il barbiere di Siviglia for Boosey's Royal Edition (he was joint editor for other works by Mozart, Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Wagner, Weber, Balfe and others).

- the opera repertoire at Covent Garden

(Sullivan: "Italian opera exclusively occupied the attention of the fashionable classes, and, like a great car of Juggernaut, overrode and crushed all efforts made on behalf of native music."19 )

- Richard Wagner's opera Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg (premièred 1868)

(Sullivan: "You see, I am taking lessons. Well, why not? This is not only Wagner's masterpiece, but the greatest comic opera ever written."20)

- contemporary music

(Sullivan: "The opera of the future is a compromise. Not the French school, with gaudy and tinsel tunes, its lambent lights and shades, its theatrical effects and clap-trap; not the Wagnerian school, with its sombreness and heavy ear-splitting airs, with its mysticism and unreal sentiment; not the Italian school, with its fantastic airs and fioriture and far-fetched effects. It is a compromise between these three - a sort of eclectic school, a selection of the merits of each one."21)

Epecially with his comic operas Sullivan wanted to distinguish a national opera, sung in English, from the tradition of ballad opera, which was not capable of development, and cheap music hall entertainments and extravaganzas. He entered into competition with the French, so they could not provide a major source of inspiration. "If 'The Sorcerer' is a great success it is another nail in the coffin of Opéra Bouffe from the French", he wrote.22 As Sullivan's speech "About Music" from 1888 reveals he completely committed himself to the improvement of musical taste, fighting against the ignorance among politicians and audience. "We must be educated to appreciate, and appreciation must come before production", said Sullivan. "Give us intelligent and educated listeners, and we shall produce composers and performers of corresponding worth."23 High-quality comic operas in English were a useful means of bringing good music to a large audience.

One of the first steps of denying Sullivan's quality as one of the leading composers of comic opera was the way of specifying the works. A gradual change led to the classification "operetta", a term Sullivan never used.

The original characterization of his stage works with W.S. Gilbert are as follows:

- 1871 Thespis or The Gods Grown Old

Entirely Original Grotesque Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1875 Trial by Jury

A Dramatic Cantata (in einem Akt)

- 1877 The Sorcerer

An Entirely New and Original Modern Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1878 HMS Pinafore or The Lass that Loved a Sailor

An Entirely Original Nautical Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1879 The Pirates of Penzance or The Slave of Duty

An Entirely Original Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1881 Patience or Bunthorne's Bride

An Entirely New and Original Aesthetic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1882 Iolanthe or The Peer and The Peri

A Fairy Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1884 Princess Ida or Castle Adamant

A Respectful Operatic Per-version of Tennyson's "Princess" (in drei Akten)

- 1885 The Mikado or The Town of Titipu

An Entirely New and Original Japanese Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1887 Ruddigore or The Witch's Curse

An Entirely Original Supernatural Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1888 The Yeomen of the Guard or The Merryman and his Maid

A New and Original Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1889 The Gondoliers or The King of Barataria

An Entirely Original Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1893 Utopia Limited or The Flowers of Progress

An Original Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

- 1896 The Grand Duke or The Statutory Duel

Comic Opera (in zwei Akten)

While The New Collins Concise English Dictionary defines "operetta" as "a type of comic or light-hearted opera; Italian meaning: a small opera" the German Duden offers a similar definition adding that it can also have "a slightly depreciative meaning".24 In a similar sense the word "operettenhaft" has a negative connotation. Calling Sullivan "operetta" in Germany is not a compliment for Sullivan but implies a degradation which much too often results in the routine and second rate musical standards in the opera houses.25

It is possible that the touring companies sent to Berlin, Vienna, Leipzig and Hamburg by the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company between 1886 and 1888 left these operetta-like impressions on German audiences. Nevertheless Sullivan was popular on the continent: a postcard was published around 1895 with Sullivan's photo which was taken in Berlin! Although authors were writing about his "komische Opern" (comic operas) as early as 187826 and some years later about Sullivan as a "hervorragender englischer Componist"27 (outstanding English composer) the situation gradually changed. Already the well-known Viennese critic Eduard Hanslick condemned The Mikado as one of the "derbe Operetten" (coarse operettas).28 And Thomas Mann's diaries of the 1940s reveal the attitude of a majority of the music-loving bourgeoisie, treating Sullivan's works with condescension and eventually labelling them as "Operette".29

Despite of what some German advocates for Sullivan claimed in the 1920s the musical standards of Sullivan interpretation were too low to prove the quality of the compositions. As late as 1926 Adolf Aber wrote: "Extraordinarily numerous are the contributions, delivered by Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) to Shakespearean music. For most people this composer is only known as the author of the operetta Der Mikado, which still features in our repertoire - but this is totally wrong. He was a thoroughly serious musician, as a lot of chamber music, orchestral works and operas prove."30

When in 1910 the Swiss chocolate company Tobler offered advertising stamps with pictures of famous composers, Sullivan was still seen as on a par with Berlioz, Rossini, Verdi, Mozart and others, and there were also recordings of Mikado-excerpts sung in German. But gradually the horizon narrowed. "Because Sullivan suffers the fate of so many a composer who did a magnificent job with one work: he will always remain the composer of the Mikado, just as Bizet the composer of Carmen or Gounod the composer of Faust or Mascagni the composer of Cavalleria", wrote Erich Urban in 1929. "What is required is only the releasing book and some special circumstances, and the great sensational success will be there."31 The first German book on Sullivan was not published until 199332, which was incidentally the first book on the subject that was published in another language than English.

However the endeavour towards Sullivan's rehabilitation is not only restricted to central Europe, it is also vivid in England. It was the string-pulling in his native country that had a detrimental effect on Sullivan's reputation in general. An evaluation already typical during Sullivan's life-time turned into a verdict of guilty after his death: "Some things that Mr. Arthur Sullivan may do, Sir Arthur ought not to do", reminded a critic of the Musical Review shortly after Sullivan had been knighted in May 1883. "In other words, it will look rather more than odd to see announced in the papers that a new comic opera is in preparation, the book by Mr. W.S. Gilbert and the music by Sir Arthur Sullivan. A musical knight can hardly write shop ballads either; he must not dare to soil his hands with anything less than an anthem or a madrigal; oratorio, in which he has so conspicuously shone, and symphony, must now be his line. Here is not only an opportunity, but a positive obligation for him to return to the sphere from which he has too long descended."33

He did not return but preferred to remain active in both spheres until his death in November 1900. The "composer at the barrel-organ" became an often used topic of 19th century cartoons, featuring Verdi, Sullivan and others. Sullivan's life-long dilemma is illustrated best in a cartoon from Musical World which was published in 1887 shortly after he had worked simultaneously on the oratorio The Golden Legend and his comic opera Ruddigore. The title "In Purgatory - Sullivan in difficulties" summarizes the situation: Sullivan, surrounded by the folks, creatures and instruments of his works, is pondering over his compositions (see index).

For Sullivan, these two spheres provided a positive interaction for his creative imagination. If the comic operas, he said, "are entitled to any claim as compositions, I rely entirely on the underlying vein of seriousness which runs through all my operas. In the composition of the scores I adhered to the principles of art which I had learned in the production of more solid works, and no musician who analyses the score of those light operas will fail to find the evidence of seriousness and solidity pointed out."34

In the twentieth century new limbos were opened for him: the above-mentioned purgatory of a traditional but never-changing antiquated performing style and the purgatory of a music-establishment which knew only too well how serious a serious artist has to be.

A glance at various editions of music encyclopaedieas reveal Sullivan's declining fame. Already in the early editions of Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians Sullivan conducting at Leeds Festival"Musicians his light operas are made lighter than they are and some reproachful remarks about Sullivan's misguided ambitions are dropped. "Such unprecedented recognition speaks for itself", is the comment on the box office success of Iolanthe in 1882. "But it is higher praise to say, with a leading critic, that 'while Mr. Sullivan's music is as comic and lively as anything by Offenbach, it has the extra advantage of being the work of a cultivated musician, who would scorn to write ungrammatically even if he could.' We might add 'vulgarly and coarsely', which, in spite of all temptations, our countryman has never done. 'His refinement', as a writer of our own has well said, 'is a thousand times more telling than any coarse utterances.' But may we not fairly ask whether the ability so conspicious in these operettas is always to be employed on works which from their very nature must be even more fugitive than comedy in general? Surely the time has come when so able and experienced a master of voice, orchestra and stage effect - master, too, of so much genuine sentiment - may apply his gifts to the production of a serious opera on some subject of abiding human or national interest."35

Articles in a similar vein followed, ignoring Sullivan's own statements and drowning the voices in favour of his theatrical achievements. As early as 1928 Thomas Dunhill states in his book Sullivan's Comic Operas: "Macfarren [...] dubbed his collegue 'The English Offenbach' [...] Unfortunately the remark was given permanence by its inclusion in Macfarren's article on Music in the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It was never intended as a compliment, nor was it taken as such."36 Alexander Mackenzie - principal of the Royal Academy of Music from 1888 until 1924 - also called it an inappropriate comparison, because the methods of the two composers as well as the quality of the librettos had been totally different37

In three major volumes about the so-called English Musical Renaissance - published by Frank Howes (1966), Peter Pirie (1979) and Michael Trend (1985) - the negative or indifferent attitude towards Sullivan lives on. Howes devoted only six and a half of 381 pages to Sullivan, only to come to the conclusion that "without Gilbert, Sullivan produced nothing with the sap of permanence in it, Cox and Box excepted".38 Sullivan, Howes claims, "has left a lot of really bad music behind, and, what is worse, popular bad music that resists death. His great achievements, the comic operas with Gilbert, whose claims to permanence and excellence cannot be lightly dismissed, are still oddly streaked - somehow the church organist and the Anglican anthem play curious games of hide-and-seek with an incongruous quasi-Gallic frivolity."39 At least the author admitted that "[Sullivan's] views about musical education were enlightened, and he helped to formulate the liberal policy which was the animating ideal of the Royal College of Music founded in 1883 after a preliminary and experimental venture, the National Training School, of which Sullivan was Principal, and in an address delivered to students at Birmingham in 1888 he speaks of the improvements in English music during a half-century which make it impossible for it once more to appear among the leaders of Europe."40 First of all, Sullivan's Birmingham address "About Music"41 - one of the most important documents of his artistic, political and ethical views - was not only intended for students but delivered before 3,000 people in the Town Hall, printed in advance and nationally reported. And secondly the "liberal policy" was mere flattering for the sharp practices at the Royal College of Music. No wonder, because Howes, born in 1891, was a student there and, from 1938, a lecturer. Thomas Dunhill recalled that "after the retirement of Grove in [October] 1894 it was considered scarcely decent to mention Sullivan's name with approval in the building".42

For Peter J. Pirie (1979) and Michael Trend (1985) Sullivan does not really exist. Pirie wasted ten lines on Sullivan, who "stands somewhat apart"43 the English Musical Renaissance, establishing a connection to Brecht/Weill which is even more misleading than the Offenbach path.44 This drawing of unfounded parallels only led to a detrimental effect on Sullivan interpretations, totally ignoring the models and ambitions mentioned by the composer himself. The title of Trend's book - The Music Makers: The English Muscial Renaissance from Elgar to Britten - already suggests that Sullivan is of no importance for this movement. Only Percy Young, a remarkable biographer of Sullivan, Elgar and Grove, dared to take 1862, the year of the English première of Sullivan's incidental music to The Tempest, as a more appropriate starting point for the revival of English music than the works by Parry or Elgar.45

But for the large majority of musicologists, Sullivan did not play a major role and was doomed to insignificance. Sullivan was shoved into the niche of an entertainer, a failed genius wasting his talents, unworthy of any serious consideration. In this niche a lot of his best works had to survive a long hibernation. Not until the late 1970s developed a serious interest in Sullivan, especially without Gilbert, which was encouraged by the foundation of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society and the publication of Arthur Jacobs's (1922-1996) epoch-making biography.

Looking for New Prophets

Although a major part of Sullivan's work was relegated to the background there were still a lot of achievements which testify to his artistic powers. In 1876 Sullivan founded the National School for Music which later became part of the Royal College of Music (in 1882), he was chief conductor of the Leeds Festival for eighteen years, a fighter for the appreciation of Britsh music and musicians (especially in his Birmingham speech in 1888) and his Irish Symphony, the incidental music for several Shakespeare plays and the oratorio The Golden Legend tower among lots of ambitious "serious" compositions.

Nevertheless, in his book Howes summarized a wide-spread opinion among musicologists about Sullivan's operas: "Though no musician will deny their merits, their appeal is far more to the unmusical than to the regular music lovers."46 (Among others, they also made an appeal on Sir Charles Mackerras, quoted in the beginning...)

It was not the day of Sullivan's breakthrough - the first London performance of his incidental music The Tempest in 1862 - that marked the beginning of the far-reaching movement called the "Renaissance of English Music" but Parry's more symbolically titled, if today unknown, Prometheus Unbound (1880) or for others Elgar's Enigma Variations (1899).47

This movement had an enduring influence on the national consciousness and English musical life between the 1880s and 1940s, symbolically collapsing with the destruction of the Queen's Hall - London's most important concert hall at that time - in an air raid on the 10th May 1941. The heroic attitude behind the Musical Renaissance is revealed in the manipulated version of a famous photograph: While the original has Henry Wood and two BBC officials among the ruins, the "official" version shows the conductor in a heroic pose, obtained by doctoring the photograph.48

The origins of the movement rooted in the religious and moral ambitions of the English Music establishment. George Grove (1820-1900), a man well versed in the Bible, was also an engineer who built lighthouses, and he lighted the way for the Musical Renaissance. Grove, drafting the key speeches to be given by the royal supporters of the fund-raising campaign for the Royal College of Music, stressed the social benefits of such an institution where music would be "a civilising element [...] a refining and elevating influence in common life" and in addition to that it could "enable us to rival the Germans [...] The College will be to England what the Berlin Conservatoire is to Germany [...] the recognised centre and head of the musical world [...] Why is it that England has no music recognised as national? [Because] there is no centre of music to which English musicians may resort with confidence [...] To raise the people you must purify their emotions and cultivate their imaginations".49 (Sullivan, as we have already seen, had similar ideas without making a doctrine or Gospel of them.)

In addition to that, there were political implications expressed in an address by the Prince of Wales about the Royal College of Music in Kensington as an institution which would enhance "colonial co-operation and sympathy" to the overall benefit of national unity and furthermore "by inspiring among our fellow-subjects in every part of the Empire these emotions of patriotism which national music is calculated to evoke [...] Music can benefit and provide for the leisure hours [...] elevating enjoyment [and would] strengthen a common love of the country".50

[see table 4]

* The graph showing the national origin of new compositions (in this case played by the Philharmonic Society of London between 1823 and 1912) reveals that concert music played a much more important role in the process of forming national identity than opera. In the 1870s music by English composers gradually towers above the others. Later, after establishing a basic repertoire, the number of new composition decreases. From the 1890s onwards new French works became more important than German ones.51

The compositional output by English musicians in the second half of the 19th century became so extensive and ambitious that it seemed to be appropriate to speak of a revival of English music. This could help to overcome an inferiority feeling since British music has been frowned upon in German-speaking countries for a long time. British musicians were longing for recognition in Europe, especially in the tradition-laden German-speaking parts where they found an abundance of professional music teaching, conservatoires, local opera houses, orchestras and concert halls. Critical voices were raised, too, such as Charles Maclean's (1843-1916) in a lecture on Sullivan to the Musical Association in March 1902. Maclean, a man of the world, argued that the obsession with a particular kind of the Teutonic Culture was in itself a sign of English provincialism. "England's insularity in music throughout a large portion of the Victorian period caused limited notions to prevail as to what was going on in Europe generally, while the English serious and conservative habit of thought lended itself very readily to the process of drawing a ring round certain important composers to the exclusion of everybody else", he said. "The composers in question (almost exclusively German) were regarded as 'classical'; while the music of everyone else was treated as something out of the pale. In fact, in say the mid-nineteenth century, there was a complete obsession in England with the Teutonic style; so that, for instance, a sonata of Kuhlau would be regarded as 'classical', while an important opera by Bellini or Auber would be regarded as music of an inferior type."52

These words were the prelude to a discussion of Sullivan's role as a national style-builder. Maclean argued, broadly speaking, that sonata form lies in the heart of Germanic but not of English music. Sullivan, according to Maclean, set himself thoughout his career not to build on his German education (at the Leipzig Conservatoire) but on his English roots (the Chapel Royal etc.). Maclean, unfortunately, was not a member of the inner Kensington ring but a gifted linguist, who had spent much of his life in India. His thesis, at least, represents an alternative to the dominant process of forming public opinion.

The reserved German attitude towards English music was created not only by aesthetic aspects related to the quality of music, but also by prejudice which derived from cultural, sociological and political reasons. It was not until the First World War that this unfruitful relationship of "master" and "servant" gradually changed. The general German attitude is best summarized in Oscar Schmitz's book Das Land ohne Musik (The Land Without Music), which was published in 1914 and already reached its sixth edition in 1915. Later it was translated into English in 1926.53 Music is not the subject of the book, which is subtitled "Englische Gesellschaftsprobleme" (Problems of English Society), but the title suggests that the English were regarded as emotionless, distant and without any heart and feeling.

Already in 1862 after Sullivan's return from his Leipzig studies the Cornhill Magazine welcomed his incidental music to Shakespeare's drama The Tempest, acknowledging that "we are inclined to think that Mr. Sullivan has made the most promising debut of any English composer for some years past" and stating: "We English can no longer be called 'an unmusical people'."54

Unmusical they were not but - at least in that case - ungrateful. Allusions to the Golden Ages of the Renaissance centuries ago were designed, in contrast to that evoking parallels to past glories. Morton Latham coined the expression in his Cambridge lectures in June 1888. In their exciting study of the movement titled The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, published in 1993, Robert Stradling and Meirion Hughes state that this occasion seems to have the been first on which the term "Renaissance" was specifically used in relation to the music of Mackenzie, Parry and Stanford. Latham's lecture about "The Musical Renaissance in England" was soon followed by his book The Renaissance of Music (1890). This publication was mainly concerned with the place of English Music in the European Renaissance of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, bridging, however, the past to the present situation. The Swiss historian Jacob Burckhardt (1818-1897) had created new interest in the achievements of the "Renaissance", the age of "rebirth" or "resurrection" of the artistic values of the Graeco-Roman times, with his influential book Die Kultur der Renaissance in Italien (The Civilization of the Renaissance in Italy), published in 1859. Already before it was translated into English in 1878, Walter Pater (1839-1894), introducing Burckhardt into British intellectual life, established the modern usage of the term "Renaissance". Latham now created a direct comparison between musicians of his time and the rediscovered "Golden Age" of English Music. Latham revealed himself as a sincere Grove insider following the "official" interpretation that the heritage of English music was preserved mainly through choral music (and not opera): "Composers like Mackenzie, Parry and Stanford give promise that musical England will hold her place among the nations in the century which we are rapidly approaching."55 Sullivan, drawing similar comparisons to the great past of English music in 1888, did not seem to be appropriate to enter the boat which soon hauled up full sail.

Some time later in his first address as director to the students of the Royal College of Music in 1895, Hubert Parry (1848-1918) praised George Grove, the institute's first director and Sullivan's former friend: "His [e.g. Grove's] high ideals never yielded to the shallow solipsisms of a vulgar, greedy, vain and money-grubbing world ... [with Grove's example] this college will be an honour to our country, a very beacon set on a hill [...] a centre from which light and enlightenment may radiate through all the country."56

"In Parry and Stanford, Grove had recruited two of the brightest talents", is Strandling and Hughes's comment. "This trio made up the inner Grove 'group'; they shared a vision of the future in which a musical establishment would be constructed along contemporary lines."57 This "grouping" was far more influential than the off-side position of the circles of G & S addicts, mentioned above by Darlington.

Parry (teaching composition and music history), Stanford (responsible for composition and orchestra) and their followers became the henchmen and executors of Grove's ambitions. It is obvious that Sullivan was not in conformity with their standards which were not necessarily musical but moral ones. "Parry and Stanford are rapidly getting absolute control of all the music, sacred and secular, in England; and also over our provincial Festivals and Concert societies, and other performing bodies!!!" complained John Stainer in a letter to a friend. "A nice prospect [...] they should compose more and talk less."58

Artists such as Arthur Sullivan, Rutland Boughton, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Edward Elgar (before his success at the Lower Rhine Festival and after his Birmingham lectures) - and to say nothing of female composers - were not suitable prophets for the Gospel of British music and became "unpersons", whose importance was not fully appeciated until the last decades of the twentieth century. In 1934 Vaughan Williams commented on these concomitant phenomena of contemporary English music history: "The business of finding a nation's soul is a long and slow one at the best and a great many prophets must be slain in the course of it. Perhaps when we have slain enough prophets future generations will begin to build their tombs."59

Sullivan was certainly not among these prophets. Apart from making fun of the establishment in his operas, his behaviour was not up to the standards of an English gentleman: gambling in Monte Carlo, squandering large sums of money on horse-racing, a charming womanizer who had a love-affair with a married American woman - in total: a life in Babel financed with trivial theatrical comedy.

The punishment was banning Sullivan and ousting him from the conductorship at the important Leeds Triennial Music Festival.60 Sullivan was conscious of what was going on. "I cannot help feeling", he wrote in a letter to the Festival's Secretary, "that the Festival has lost interest in me. We know the effect of a drop of water continually falling on a stone; and from 1889 until now, the same style of press criticism has been poured on me until even Leeds itself believes every twopenny-ha'penny musicians who waves a stick, especially if he is a foreigner, is a better conductor than I, and it is only because of the prestige attached to my name that I am chosen as conductor."61 In particular, he cited "the sneers of The Times", which recruited its music critics from Kensington disciples. After 1898 Sullivan's successor at Leeds became Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924).

The importance of being earnest

How the system worked is described by George Bernard Shaw in his comments on Stanford's oratorio Eden (1891): "Who am I that I should be believed to the disparagement of eminent musicians? If you doubt that Eden is a masterpiece, ask Dr. Parry and Dr. Mackenzie, and they will applaud it to the skies. Surely Dr. Mackenzie's opinion is conclusive, for he is not the composer of Veni Creator, guaranteed as excellent music by Professor Stanford and Dr. Parry? You want to know who Parry is? Why, the composer of Blest Pair of Sirens, as to the merits of which you have only to consult Dr. Mackenzie and Professor Stanford."62 A composer's point of view is best illustrated with Ethel Smyth's experiences, who more than once complained that even if the audiences liked her works, the faculties always gave her an angry frown. According to her opinion an English composer can only be successful if one is admitted to this "machinery".63 For Stanford's taste (in 1908) Sullivan had spent too long on "a class of composition which [...] was below the level of his abilities".64

How Sullivan was ground in this machinery of ideological and cultural-political control mechanisms was first described by David Eden, Robert Stradling and Meirion Hughes. According to David Eden65, the roots of the Victorian culture of earnestness, these moral and ethical convictions imposed on music-making in the late 19th century, lay in the Evangelical movement of the Church of England, which began to gain momentum in the 1830s with its outstanding representative John Henry Newman (1801-1890).

Outside the church Thomas Carlyle (1795-1881) preached the gospel of earnestness as a doctrine, prefixing his book Past and Present (1841) with a motto taken from Schiller: "Ernst ist das Leben". Carlyle, who disliked music as potentially subversive, set a model for future severe reprimands in his condemnation of Walter Scott.

Scott not only features as author of several songs by Sullivan but especially as the author of Ivanhoe, which became Sullivan's subject for his most ambitious contribution for a national opera. Scott, according to Carlyle, represented "the perfect example of a sceptical dilletante writing simply to entertain idolent and languid men [...] The great Mystery of Existence was not great to him; did not drive him into rocky solitudes to wrestle with it for an answer, to be answered or perish [..] One sees not that he believed in anything; nay, he did not even disbelieve; but quietly acquiesced and made himself at home in a world of conventionalities; the false, the semi-false and the true were all alike in this that they were there, and had the power in their hands, more or less. It was well to feel so; and yet not well! We find it written, 'Woe to them that are at ease in Zion', but surely it is a double woe to them that are at ease in Babel."66

David Eden is right in concluding that "it is immediately apparent what position a man like Sullivan must occupy in any scheme of values derived from Carlyle".67

Parry and Stanford, being the most conspiciuous products of the movement which they did not create but whose leadership they assumed, exemplified these virtues to the full. Artists like Brahms were presented as models. Parry's obituary oration on Brahms encapsulated the desired virtues: "The life-work is ended, and nothing of quite the same order can again be done in the world. And what comfort have we? Truly the comfort of heroic work heroically done - a noble life lived out in untainted devotion to generous ideals. The knowledge that he was a man who formed the most exalted ideals of art and carried them through unflinchingly, who never coquetted with the mob or the 'gallery', who accepted the exalted responsibilities of knowing what was first-rate, and never believed himself by putting trumpery catch-phrases into his work to tickle the ears of the groundlings and gain a little cheap popularity."68

The hidden agenda became: that greatness is only granted to the earnest. The values upheld by the leaders of the Kensington movement had a long-lasting influence on English musical life in the 20th century.

The disciples of the Royal College of Music entered upon the crusade, the successful Sullivan being a particular thorn in their side. Soon after the composer's death John Fuller-Maitland (1856-1936) and Ernest Walker (1870-1949) dragged him again to the place of execution. "The oratorios are lamentable examples of uninspired and really uncongenial work", is Fuller Maitland's verdict in March 1901. "It was the spirit of compromise that did more than anything else to lower Sullivan's standards."69 In contrast to that, Fuller Maitland is a strong advocate of Parry's works where people can feel "the presence of the highest qualities in a musical composition by a countryman".70 But woe to would-be-artists that are at ease in Zion and Babel: Sullivan's opera Ivanhoe is "a work that ought to have raised him to the highest plane of his life's achievements, was spoiled out of deference to the taste of the multitude."71

In this carefully directed condemnation, we find nothing less than a model for future prejudice and unreflected repeated verdicts. Fuller Maitland continued: "Among the lesser men who are still ranked with the great composers there are many who may only have reached the highest level now and then, but within whose capacity it lies to attain great heights; some may have produced work on a dead-level of mediocrity but may have risen on some special occasion to a pitch of beauty or power which would establish their claim to be numbered among the great. Is there anywhere a case quite parallel to that of Sir Arthur Sullivan, who began his career with a work which at once stamped his as a genius, and to the height of which he only rarely attained throughout life?"72

For Maitland, following the principles set by Parry and Carlyle, it was a sin against highest ideals to consult the tastes of the man in the street. "It is not because of the perpetration of such things as these that Sullivan's attainment of a place among the immortals may be doubted", Fuller Maitland wrote. "Though the illustrious masters of the past never did write music as vulgar, it would have been forgiven them if they had, in virtue of the beauty and value of the great bulk of their productions. It is because such great natural gifts - gifts greater, perhaps, than fell to any English musician since the time of Purcell - were so very seldom employed in work worthy of them. [...] If the author of The Golden Legend, the music to The Tempest, Henry VIII and Macbeth cannot be classed with these, how can the composer of Onward Christian Soldiers and The Absent-Minded Beggar claim a place in the hierarchy of music among the men who would face death rather than smirch their singing robes for the sake of a fleeting popularity?"73 The author's pronouncement of judgement is without mercy: "The great renaissance of English music, which took place in the last quarter of the nineteenth century, accomplished itself without any help or encouragement from Sullivan."74

As we have seen, he was only the first of many musicologists and musicians who carried on stating that Sullivan "took no part whatever in the work of the renaissance".75 The demolition of Sullivan's life-long work for English music and the refinement of the listener's taste continued in the publications by Ernest Walker. In his History of Music in England (1907) Walker came to the conclusion: "After all, Sullivan is merely the idle singer of an empty evening; with all his gift for tunefulness he could never raise it to the height of a real strong melody of the kind that appeals to cultured and relatively uncultured alike as a good folk-song does - often and often onthe other hand (but chiefly outside the operas) it sunk to mere vulgar catchiness. He laid the original foundations of his success on work that as a matter of fact he did extremely well; and it would have been incalculably better for the permanence of his reputation if he had realised this and set himself, with sincerity and self-criticism, to the task of becoming - as he might easily have become - a really great composer of musicianly light music. But anything like steadiness of artistic purpose was never one of his endowments, and without that a composer, whatever his technical ability may be, is easily liable to degenerate into a mere popularity-hunting trifler."76

These verdicts set the standard and functioned as a model of music criticism for decades to come. In some cases it was not really necessary to waste remarks about the persona non grata. For Donald Tovey (1875-1940), for example, one of Walker's friends, Sullivan seemed to be far too insignificant to come under his notice. As reviews and performance numbers reveal Sullivan's serious works such as the oratorio The Golden Legend, still popular among concert-goers in the early 20th century, was mainly taken from the public and not deserted by it. The "popular idol" which was "brought out again because only very popular works are expected to fill the Albert Hall" was regarded as "really dead" by critics and conductors because "it represents only the fashion of a moment".77 The opera Ivanhoe suffered a similar fate with half-hearted revivals in 1910 and 1929 (for a BBC broadcast).

Cultural Catastrophes: What shall we do with operetta sing-song?

Nevertheless, the isolated D'Oyly Carte tradition at least helped Sullivan's comic operas to survive until the composer regained wider interest from the 1960s onwards. From time to time there were attempts to try to gain full recognition for Sullivan, e.g. by B.W. Findon (1904) and H. Saxe Wyndham (1903/1926)78, but unfortunately they were distant from the climate of opinion both in the capital and in the ancient universities such as Cambridge and Oxford.

Hardly anybody took notice when Henry Davey (1853-1929) praised Sullivan as the substantial figure of contemporary English music in his History of English Music (1895) while dismissing Mackenzie, Parry and Stanford with daring words: "As none of them has invented an original style it is not necessary to examine their works."79 Alas, Davey lived in Brighton, too far away from the place where the mythmakers of the establishment reigned.

When at the end of September 1901 a tablet with an inscription was put at Sullivan's birthplace80, Ebenezer Prout (1835-1909) who was once employed by Sullivan as professor of harmony at the National Training School reminded the persons present of Sullivan's importance: "We know what he was as a musician, but many of us have only an inadequate idea of what he has done in the cause of music in this country. We most of us associate Sir Arthur's name with the operas, although he did an immense deal for English music art in other directions, and even in his operas he raised the standard above the low opera bouffe, which was the favourite pastime at the time Sir Arthur began to write."81 Unfortunately, the organist, composer and conductor Prout, chiefly known as a writer of musical textbooks which were ridiculed as pedantic by those ignorant of them, was hardly an influential advocat.

A critical reception on the continent could not counterbalance the situation in Sullivan's home country. Two great wars turned Germany and England into enemy nations which only added fuel to the fire. After the Second World War the "Neue Musik" (e. g. Stockhausen, Henze & Co.) and Adorno's influence had a detrimental effect on the appeciation of British music in Germany. In order to establish a completely new cultural beginning82 a new generation was looking for different voices so that there was little interest in the so-called "old-fashioned" style of British composers.

Taking into consideration the situation in Britain it is little surprising that in the process of re-education in the late 1940s and early 1950s, the allies introduced literature about Elgar and Britten in German translations83 but no Sullivan - anyhow, there was no "programme" of cultural education by the allies and so most of it disappeared. If Sullivan was mentioned in books on music history he was often presented with misleading concepts. The German translation of Gilbert Chase's book about America's Music, published as Die Musik Amerikas in 1955, put Gilbert and Sullivan in the context of Broadway musical. In a booklet published in German by the BBC in the early 1950s "Gilbert and Sullivan" get a separate half-page chapter in the section about "Opera in Great Britain", tracing the works back to the old ballad operas - roots which are totally inadequate to explain the quality of the operas.84

The most interesting translation in 1947 was the German version of Music in England by Eric Blom (1888-1959). Blom, Danish by descent, Swiss by birth, and British by naturalization, had already made a plea for the performance of Sullivan's operas abroad. In his Musik in England he drew up a picture of Sullivan as "a remarkable personality enough, though not a great one" for the English and the German reader respectively. "Greatness was later to be thrust on him in a way that he certainly neither expected nor desired in his early days." For this author, as for many others, only one side of Sullivan existed. "It was in operettas that Sullivan found himself", diagnosed Blom. Close analysis would prove him wrong. Considering Sullivan's educational background with the Chapel Royal and Leipzig education it will soon become clear that besides Rossini a native language comic opera such as Lortzing's works from Leipzig, Der Barbier von Bagdad by Peter Cornelius, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Schumann, Schubert, Berlioz and Liszt are among the models for his - as he calls them - comic operas.

But while a serious Rossini reception developed gradually, the classification of Sullivan's compositions for the stage as operettas led to second- and third-rate perfomances too often attracting an audience that was not capable of appreciating musical quality and understanding allusions.85 No German Sullivan performance can match the musical standards set by English recordings with high-quality vocalists, orchestras and conductors or the wit of Jonathan Miller's ingenious Mikado-production.

Sullivan productions were few in German-speaking countries between the 1920s and the 1950s. Statistics reveal that Sullivan's most popular work Der Mikado was given at the Schauspielhaus in Berlin (1927), the Stadttheater Hamburg (1928), the Stadttheater Basle (1944) and Cologne (1959); besides that there were Die Piraten at the Operettenhaus in Düsseldorf (1936) and Die Goldolieri in Basel (1949) and Freiburg (1950).86 The reaction towards Der Mikado in Basle in 1944 is "contained", the "englische Meisteroperette" arrived too late and the music is described as "not zippy enough".87 Another not too enthusiastic review parrots something about the Offenbach-connection but also draws new parallels mentioning "memories of Lortzing's warm-hearted art of song-writing and Smetana's rhythmic-harmonic peculiarities".88 Most of the other reactions were in a similar vein, even when praising the committment of the local artists doubts gleamed through that "future will reveal whether the succès d'estime will last".89

In all cases the works were introduced as "Operette". Up to the present day English music historiography has been successful in doing harm to Sullivan's reputation. Already years ago a leading English magazine wrote: "It is Sullivan's music rather than Gilbert's plots and words that have maintained the popularity of these works for so many years"90 (And since there are no boundaries for music, there is no reason why Sullivan's works should not be successful outside the English-speaking world where English is the most important foreign language anyway.)91

Comes the Revolution

"Curious standards", wrote Ernest Bradbury in an article published in January 1962 when the copyright expired. "Musicians have mainly themselves to blame for the lack of true appreciation of Sullivan. The worthies who held that a dull anthem by Sullivan represented Greater Art than the score of The Mikado, represented not so much the musical snobbery of their day (it is still with us) as the curious musical standards then prevailing in Britain."92

Parallel to the appreciation of Sullivan by some German writers, Thomas Dunhill wrote already in 1928: "If Sullivan's detractors had been people of little account in the musical world their judgements might have been ignored. But this, unfortunately, is not the case. In many instances they were significant contemporary musicians who, perhaps rightly, considered their own aims more lofty than his. And so, fully conceived that Sullivan ought never to have had the success which he achieved, they have been great at pains to explain to the public how accidental, how undeserved, how thoroughly discreditable to the musical taste of this country, that success was. This is a seroius matter which must be seriously met, for, unless the false impression of Sullivan's position which these critics have created is corrected, historians of future generations will be confronted with a problem of great difficulty in determining the importance of this composer's place in English music."93

"Mainly in Defence" is the title of the first chapter in his book Sullivan's Comic Operas, and this preparedness for defence is imposed upon everybody writing and lecturing about Sullivan's music or just enjoying it. First signs of a gradual change emerged in the 1950s. Arthur Jacobs's small scale biography of 1951 finally resulted in his masterwork - the first comprehensive biography of Sullivan in 1984, a standard work which is up to scientific standards. Gervase Hughes' The Music of Arthur Sullivan in 1960, where according to David Eden "values expressed are those of Ernest Walker put into technical language", was followed by other serious analyses of the music in books and articles by Percy Young, Audrey Williamson, Richard Silverman and Robert Fink.94

While Malcolm Sargent's recordings improved the vocal standards in the 1950s, fortunately benefiting from different copyright laws for recordings, the recordings by the New D'Oyly Carte Company in the 1980s and 1990s made use of authentic scores prepared by David Russell Hulme some thirty years later. The publication of critical editions such as Cox and Box and The Zoo from R. Clyde in the nineties, Trial by Jury by The Broude Brothers in 1994 and Ruddigore as the first volume of the critical Sullivan edition by Oxford University Press early in 2000 are the first step into a new dimension of Sullivan research.95

New songs to sing, o!

Some questions still remain unanswered: Have our ancestors been taken in by a hm-ta-ta-charlatan or was an innocent burnt at the stake? High-quality performances, recordings and publications which deal seriously with the quality of Sullivan's orchestral and vocal works prove that the latter is true. Already decades ago people had to be reminded that "the only dangers to Sullivan are the twin attitudes 'We know it' and 'It's easy', both of which lead to slackness".96 And as early as 1962 Ernest Bradbury wrote in an article: "Again and again we have pointed out the disgrace - a national disgrace - of the non-availability of Sullivan study scores. [...] Now that the copyright is ended, some enterprising firm should take in hand a critical edition of his operas, available to students in miniature score form. There can be no doubt that in years to come Sullivan's name - and not Gilbert's - must lead the partnership. It is true that the genius of the one depended on the genius of the other. But critically, they are not inseparable."97

Stage performances, new recordings by first rate artists, Mike Leigh's film Topsyturvey (England 1999)98 and the new critical Sullivan edition are only some examples proving that the Sullivan reception is not a thing of the past but still vivid.99

Is there more than a grain of truth in Stradling and Hughes's opinion that "more than other branches of history, the history of music is still subject to the kind of promiscuous revisionism practised professionally by Winston Smith in [Orwell's novel] Nineteen Eighty-Four"?100 We should be on the alert, not suspecting conspiracy everywhere but being wary of grouping and intolerance. A critical look at the crucial decades after Sullivan's death reveal that it is wise to closely scrutinize prefabricated appraisals and not to accept them too easily. Queries about this background may lead to a new assessment and probably an appreciation of Sullivan's achievements which could culminate in a broadening of the repertoire in non-English speaking countries and a new estimation of Sullivan's achievements for (English) music history.101

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1Saremba, M.: Arthur Sullivan - Ein Komponistenleben im viktorianischen England, Wilhelmshaven 1993, S. X.

2This production was also broadcast in German radio by the former Süddeutsche Rundfunk (SDR), now Südwestrundfunk (SWR) in Stuttgart. In addition to that the author of this article also wrote two Sullivan programmes for German radio: Saremba, M.: „Sir Arthur und Mr. Sullivan - Von der Einheit der Gegensätze in Werk und Leben Arthur Sullivans“ (Süddeutscher Rundfunk, original broadcast May 14th 1992, 84 minutes) and “Here's a how-de-do - Die komischen Opern des ungleichen Erfolgsteams Arthur Sullivan und W.S. Gilbert“, Saarländischer Rundfunk, original broadcast: April 13th 1994, 135 minutes).

3A similar concept - opera entire sung in the national language, e.g. German - was introduced in Berlin with Walter Felsenstein's (1901-1975) Komische Oper in 1947.

4According to the origin of the composers (Balfe, Wallace) and the place of action (The Lily of Killarney) it would be more justified to call it "The Irish Ring".

5Kennedy, Michael: Britten, London 1981, p. 47.

6Information according to the performance statistics of the English National Opera, London.

7Information according to Saremba, M.: Leos Janácek - Leben, Zeit, Werk, Wirkung, Kassel 2001.

8Basler Nachrichten, 28th October 1949.

9Daily Telegraph, 25th May 1939.

10Darlington, William Aubrey: "G. and S. without the Addicts", in The Daily Telegraph, 22nd January 1962. W.A. Darlington also wrote a book worth reading with a lot of information about the sociological and historical background of the operas (The World of Gilbert and Sullivan, New York 1950).

11Merryn, Anthony: "What will happen now to the immortals?", in The Stage and Television Today, 21st December 1961.

12The Sadler's Wells Opera/English National Opera presented new productions of Iolanthe (1962), The Mikado (1963), Patience (1968), The Mikado (1988) and Princess Ida (1992). Other British opera companies took the works into their repertoire. While the ENO-Mikado is available on video and CD the Welsh National Opera went to the recording studio with Trial by Jury, HMS Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance, The Mikado and The Yeomen of the Guard. The recordings made by the New D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, based in Birmingham, make use of the original scores with some deleted numbers (according to the research made by David Russell Hulme).

13Why Sullivan is not a composer of operetta is discussed in: Saremba, M.: "Gilbert & Sullivan als komische Oper statt Operette - Plädoyer für eine Neubewertung" in Schmid-Reiter, Isolde (Hrsg.): Operette - Die unerhörte Kunst, Salzburg 2001.

14von Zedlitz, M.A.: "Interviews with Eminent Musicians - Sir Arthur Sullivan" in The Strand Musical Magazine, January - June 1895, vol I., p. 169-174.

15Lawrence, Arthur: Arthur Sullivan, London 1899, p. 56.

16Sullivan in his lecture "About Music" from October 19th 1888 in Birmingham, published in: Lawrence, Arthur: Arthur Sullivan - Life Story, Letters and Reminiscences, London 1899, (republished by Haskell House Publishers, New York 1973), und Saremba, Meinhard: Arthur Sullivan, Wilhelmshaven 1993.

17Flower, Newman / Sullivan, Herbert: Sir Arthur Sullivan - His Life, Letters and Diaries, Cassell, London 1927, S. 30.

18Lawrence, A.: Arthur Sullivan, London 1899, p. 44 f.

19Sullivan in his lecture "About Music" (October 19th 1888).

20Jacobs, A.rthur: Arthur Sullivan - A Victorian Musician, Oxford 1986 (revised paperback edition), p. 338.

21Jacobs, A.: Arthur Sullivan, Oxford 1986, p. 218.

22Jacobs, A.: Arthur Sullivan, Oxford 1986, p. 111.

23Lawrence, A.; Arthur Sullivan, London 1899, p. 286.

24According to the Duden because it "drückt in Bildung mit Substantiven aus, daß eine Person oder eine Sache dem äußeren (meist prunkvollen) Schein nach, jmd., etw. ist und sich entsprechend bedeutsam gibt, aber nicht ernst genommen wird, da die notwendigen Voraussetzungen fehlen: Operettenfußball, -könig, -krieg". Concerning an appropriate starting point for a fresh Sullivan interpretation see also: Saremba, M.: "Warten auf Sullivan - Sullivan nur für englische Bühnen?" in Saremba, M.: Arthur Sullivan, Wilhelmshaven 1993, p. 279-285, and Saremba, M.: "Gilbert & Sullivan als komische Oper statt Operette" in Schmid-Reiter, Isolde (Hrsg.): Operette - Die unerhörte Kunst, Salzburg 2001.

25See also Saremba, M: "Gilbert & Sullivan als komische Oper statt Operette". in Schmid-Reiter, Isolde (Hrsg.): Operette - Die unerhörte Kunst, Salzburg 2001. In the English-speaking world the term "operetta" does not necessarily have negative connotations. In Great Britain this term is used rather careless since the people did not experience how this form of entertainement was misused in later years (see, for example, the undifferentiated book by Gervase Hughes, Composers of Operetta, London 1962). Niels Frédéric Hoffmann is right in examining the detrimental effect of fascism on German culture: "Alles in der Kultur sollte neu und sauber sein, und so trennte man säuberlich die Spreu vom Weizen, allerdings mit dem Erfolg, dass man den Weizen ins Exil schickte und die Spreu selber fraß. [...] Unter der Naziherrschaft zeigt die Operette die fratzenhaften Züge einer für ihren Auftritt zum Tod geschminkten Primadonna. Der Revuefilm ist die musikalische Agonie der aufgeprotzten Operettenschnulze; das schlechteste, was die Operette hervorgebracht hat, wurde zu ihrem Wesen gemacht; alles was wirklich kritisch, lustvoll war, wurde verboten." ( "In the field of culture everything had to be new and decent, and so the chaff was carefully seperated from the wheat. The success was, however, that 'the wheat' was forced into exile and one had to feed on 'the chaff' oneself. [...] During the Nazi regime the operetta reveales the distorted face of a prima donna who has been made up for her death-scene. The dance film is the musical agony of the ostentatious operetta sob story; the worst elements produced by the operetta became its essence; everything that had really been critical and hilarious was forbidden." See Hoffmann, N.F.; "Die Operette, Musik der Halbwelt" in Musica, Nr. 5, September/Oktober 1987, p. 409). In order to achieve subtle interpretations today, it is highly necessary to make distinctions between the various composers and their stylistic peculiarities. While foreigners looking for Lortzing recordings in German CD shops might wonder that they cannot find them in the operetta shelves, it is quite obvious for Germans that Lortzing belongs to the more subtle Singspiel or Komische Oper category.

26Hermann Mendel: Musicalisches Conversations-Lexikon, 10th vol., Berlin 1878.

27P.J. Tonger: Conversations-Lexikon der Tonkunst, Köln, c. 1885.

28Eduard Hanslick: Aus meinem Leben, 2nd vol., 2nd edition, Berlin 1894, p. 253.

29"Pacif. Palisades, Sonnabend den 28. II. 42: ... Abendessen allein mit K. Hörten Scenen aus Opern von Sullivan, infantil. Einige hübsche Erfindungen. [...] Pacif. Palisades, Sonnabend den 28. III. 42: ... Abendessen mit Medi. Einige Musik. Sullivan, wohl das einfältigste Opern-Niveau. [...] Pacif. Palisades, Sonnabend den 23. V. 42: ... Hörte abends eine Sullivan-Operette..., in Mann, Thomas: Tagebücher 1940-1943, Frankfurt a. M. 1982, p. 399, 410 and 433.

30Adolf Aber: Die Musik im Schauspiel - Geschichtliches und Ästhetisches, Leipzig 1926, p. 55. Opinions such as Aber's could not be pushed through. Adolf Aber, born in 1893, writer and journalist (Leipziger Neueste Nachrichten), was later mentioned in the notorious Lexikon der Juden in der Musik, published by Theo Stengel and Herbert Gerigk (Berlin 1940): "Known as one of the most corrupt representatives of music journalism."

31Dr. Erich Urban: "Sir Arthur Sullivan" in Sullivan-Heft, Musik für Alle Nr. 262, Berlin 1929.

32Saremba, M.: Arthur Sullivan, Wilhelmshaven 1993.

33Hibbert, Christopher; Gilbert and Sullivan and Their Victorian World, New York 1976, p. 167.

34Interview in San Francisco Chronicle, 22. Juli 1885, in Jacobs, A.: Arthur Sullivan, Oxford 1986, p. 218.

35Grove, George (ed.): "Sullivan, Arthur Seymour" Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, London 1879-89, p. 762. The article dates from about 1883 since Iolanthe is the last of the operas and Sullivan's knighthood not yet mentioned. The ironic tone of some remarks is revealed by the deliberate use of quotations such as "in spite of all temptations" which derives from the final chorus of HMS Pinafore.

36Dunhill, Thomas: Sullivan's Comic Operas, London 1928, p. 38.

37Mackenzie, Alexander: A Musician's Narrative, London 1927, p. 205.

38Howes, Frank: The English Musical Renaissance, London 1966, p. 57.

39Ibid., p. 51.

40Ibid., p. 51.

41The text of Sullivan's speech can be found in full in Lawrence, A.: Arthur Sullivan, London 1899, p. 261-287 (in English) and Saremba, M.: Arthur Sullivan, Wilhelmshaven 1993, p. 328-338 (in German translation).

42Dunhill, Thomas: Sullivan's Comic Operas, London 1928, p. 25.

43Pirie, Peter: The English Musical Renaissance, London 1979, p. 23.

44Gilbert was never as didactical as Brecht and Sullivan did not write music in the style of the Dreigroschenoper, e.g. deliberately simple tunes within the vocal range of actors, not opera singers, void of instrumental subtlety. As a composer Weill was much more elevated in his operas and his musical plays for the Broadway. The only example where Weill intentionally payed tribute to Sullivan was in Lady in the Dark.

45Young, Percy: HMV ESD 7057 (1972).

46Howes, Frank: The English Musical Renaissance, London 1966, p. 51.

47Ernest Newman was among those who hammered into the minds of the music-loving world that it is „true enough that the renaissance in modern English music dates from Prometheus Unbound" (in „The World of Music: Sir Hubert Parry“ in The Sunday Times, April 4th and 11th 1926). Thus Parry's cantata became „the entrance arch [...] through which the reader is led into the well-kept grounds of the Goodly House“ (see Stradling, Robert / Hughes, Meirion: The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, London/New York 1993, p. 184).

48See illustrations in Jacobs, Arthur: Henry J. Wood - Maker of the Proms, London 1994, p. 355 and plates 32 and 33.

49Stradling, Robert / Hughes, Meirion: The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, London/New York 1993, p. 22 f.

50Ibid., p. 24 f.

51Source: Nettel, Reginald: The Orchestra in England, London 1946.

52Maclean, Charles: "Sullivan As A National Style Builder" in Proceedings of the Musical Association XXXVIII (10th March 1902, p. 89, quoted in Eden, David: "The Unperson of British Music“ (unpublished lecture, given at the Sullivan Congress at Calver in May 1992).

53Oscar Schmitz (1873-1931) studied law and was a member of intellectual circles around Karl Wolfskehl and Stefan George. He lived in Paris, Berlin, Salzburg and Frankfurt and wrote essays, short stories and plays. He also published a book with the title Das Land der Wirklichkeit - Französische Gesellschaftsprobleme in 1907.

54Stradling, Robert / Hughes, Meirion: The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, London/New York 1993, p. 186.

55Latham, Morton: The Renaissance of Music, London 1890, p. 175.

56Stradling, Robert / Hughes, Meirion: The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, London/New York 1993, Stradling, p. 42.

57Ibid., p. 26.

58Ibid., p. 41.

59Vaughan Williams, Ralph: National Music and Other Essays, Oxford 1987, p. 72.

60For details see: Stanyon, Anne: "The Great Leeds Conspiracy - Sullivan, the 1898 Festival, and Beyond" in Sir Arthur Society Magazine, No. 31, winter 1990, p. 9-18.

61Ibid., p. 11.

62The Bodley Head Bernard Shaw: Shaw's Music, 3vv n.d. (1981), vol 2, p. 429.

63Saremba, M.: Elgar, Britten & Co., Zürich/St. Gallen 1994.

64Stanford, C.V.: Studies and Memories, London 1908, p. 162.

65Eden, David: "The Unperson of British Music" (unpublished lecture, given at the Sullivan Congress at Calver in May 1992).

66Houghton, Walter E.: The Victorian Frame of Mind, Yale University Press 1957, p. 227 f.

67Eden, David: "The Unperson of British Music" (unpublished lecture, given at the Sullivan Congress at Calver in May 1992).

68Colles, H.C. (ed.): Hubert Parry: College Addresses, London 1920, p. 45.

69Fuller Maitland, J.A.: "Sir Arthur Sullivan" in Cornhill Magazine, March 1901, p. 300-309.

70The Times, 16th September 1898.

71Fuller Maitland, J.A.: "Sir Arthur Sullivan" in Cornhill Magazine, March 1901, p. 300-309. The composers of early 19th century Italian opera cannot offer better plots or more enjoyable music but a stronger lobby.




75Fuller Maitland, J.A.: English Music in the Nineteenth Century, Grant Richards 1902, p. 170.

76Walker, Ernest: The History of Music in England, London 1907, p. 295.

77The Musical Herald, 1st May 1915.

78Saxe-Wyndham, H.: Arthur Sullivan, Lndon 1903; Saxe-Wyndham, H.: Arthur Seymour Sullivan, London 1926.

79Davey, Henry: History of English Music, London 1895, p. 449.

80Sullivan's birthplace at No 8, Bolwell Street, Lambeth Walk, in London is now destroyed.

81The Musical Herald, 1st August 1901.

82See: Hermand, Jost: Kultur im Wiederaufbau, München 1986.

83The most important publications were Bacharach, A.L. (Hrsg.); Streiflichter durch die zeitgenössische britische Musik, Berlin 1949. Blom, E.; Musik in England, Hamburg 1947. Borner, J.; Das englische Musikleben   Seine jüngste Entwicklung und seine Förderung durch die Mittel des Rundfunks, London 1951. Lindlar, Heinrich (Hrsg.); England-Heft (Musik der Zeit Nr. 4), Boosey & Hawkes, Bonn/London 1953. Lindlar, H. (Hrsg.); Benjamin Britten (Musik der Zeit Nr. 7), Boosey & Hawkes, Bonn/London 1954. Lindlar, H. (Hrsg.); Benjamin Britten   Das Opernwerk (Musik der Zeit Nr. 11), Boosey & Hawkes, Bonn/London 1955. Reed, W.H.; Edward Elgar   Leben und Werk, Albert Müller Verlag, Rüschlikon-Zürich 1950. White, E.W.; Benjamin Britten, Zürich 1948.

84Borner, J.: Das englische Musikleben - Seine jüngste Entwicklung und seine Förderung durch die Mittel des Rundfunks, London undated (c. 1950/51), p. 37 f.

85See Saremba, Meinhard: "Gilbert & Sullivan als komische Oper statt Operette". in Schmid-Reiter, Isolde (Hrsg.): Operette - Die unerhörte Kunst, Salzburg 2001.

86Wedel, Michaela: Übersetzungsproblematik am Beispiel der komischen Oper „The Mikado“ von Arthur Sullivan, Heidelberg 1994, p. 41 (unplublished diploma thesis).

87Basler Nachrichten, 1944.

88National-Zeitung (Basel), 13th/14th May 1944.

89Basler Nachrichten, 28th October 1949.

90"From Minerva House - 1962: G or S?" in Musical Opinion, Januar 1962, S. 197 f.

91At least the 100th anniversary of Sullivan's death in November 2000 commemorated by some radio stations (broadcast of The Pirates of Penzance by the Südwestrundfunk on November 12th 2000 and a Sullivan programme by the Hessische Rundfunk on November 30th 2000) and the magazine Opernwelt (Saremba, M.: „Sir Arthur and Mr. Sullivan - Von Lust und Last mit dem Komischen (Zum 100. Todestag von Arthur Sullivan)“ in Opernwelt, November 2000, p. 18-25).

92Bradbury, Ernest: "Sullivan's Comic Operas", in Yorkshire Post, 13 Januar 1962.

93Dunhill, Thomas: Sullivan's Comic Operas, London 1928, p. 13 f.

94Fink, Robert: "Rhythm and Text Setting in The Mikado" in 19th Century Music, vol. XIV No. 1, summer 1990; Silverman, Richard: "Longfellow, Liszt and Sullivan", in Musical Review, XXXVI (1975); Williamson, Audrey: Gilbert and Sullivan Opera - A New Assessment, London 1953 (revised edition 1982); Young, Percy: Sir Arthur Sullivan, London 1971.

95German theatres can obtain the OUP edition from Boosey & Hawkes in Berlin. In John Caldwell's The Oxford History of English Music, vol. II (c. 1715 to the Present Day), OUP 1999, "Sullivan, whose centenary falls this year, is honestly assessed and nicely placed in the scheme of things", according to a review in the Newsletter of the British Music Society (No. 86, June 2000, p. 46). See also: Meares, Stan: „An investigation into the reputation of Arthur Seymour Sullivan (1842-1900) - Man of Contrast / Man of the Theatre“ in British Music - The Journal of the British Music Society, vol. 22 (2000), p. 52-66. For forthcoming publications and recordings see: Turnbull, Stephen: Arthur Sullivan - A Centenary Reflection“ in Gilbert & Sullivan News (vol II, No. 19), autumn/winter 2000,p. 18-20.

96Hudersfield Daily Examiner, 21st October 1961.

97Bradbury, Ernest: "Sullivan's Comic Operas", in Yorkshire Post, 13 Januar 1962.

98See Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Magazine, No. 49, autumn 1999, p. 5-9, and Gilbert and Sullivan News,.vol. II No. 17, spring 2000, p. 13-26 and 23, as well as various internet websites.

99See also: Yates, Martin: Ruddigore - New performing Edition from Oxford University Press“ in Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Magazine, No. 51, autumn 2000, p. 3-7.

100Stradling, Robert / Hughes, Meirion: The English Musical Renaissance 1860-1940 - Construction and Deconstruction, London/New York 1993, p. 5.

101See the new internet website.