88 Facts About Arthur Sullivan


Sir Arthur Seymour Sullivan was an English composer.

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Arthur Sullivan's works include 24 operas, 11 major orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets, incidental music to several plays, and numerous church pieces, songs, and piano and chamber pieces.

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Son of a military bandmaster, Arthur Sullivan composed his first anthem at the age of eight and was later a soloist in the boys' choir of the Chapel Royal.

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In 1866 Arthur Sullivan composed a one-act comic opera, Cox and Box, which is still widely performed.

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Arthur Sullivan wrote his first opera with W S Gilbert, Thespis, in 1871.

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Arthur Sullivan wrote incidental music for West End productions of several Shakespeare plays, and held conducting and academic appointments.

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Arthur Sullivan died at the age of 58, regarded as Britain's foremost composer.

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Arthur Sullivan was born in Lambeth, London, the younger of the two children, both boys, of Thomas Arthur Sullivan and his wife, Mary Clementina nee Coghlan .

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Arthur Sullivan's father was a military bandmaster, clarinettist and music teacher, born in Ireland and raised in Chelsea, London; his mother was English born, of Irish and Italian descent.

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Thomas Arthur Sullivan was based from 1845 to 1857 at the Royal Military College, Sandhurst, where he was the bandmaster and taught music privately to supplement his income.

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Young Arthur Sullivan became proficient with many of the instruments in the band and composed an anthem, "By the Waters of Babylon", when he was eight.

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Arthur Sullivan flourished under the training of the Reverend Thomas Helmore, Master of the Children of the Chapel Royal, and began to write anthems and songs.

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Arthur Sullivan studied piano with William Sterndale Bennett and Arthur O'Leary.

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Sullivan's scholarship was extended to a second year, and in 1858, in what his biographer Arthur Jacobs calls an "extraordinary gesture of confidence", the scholarship committee extended his grant for a third year so that he could study in Germany, at the Leipzig Conservatoire.

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Arthur Sullivan was trained in Mendelssohn's ideas and techniques but was exposed to a variety of styles, including those of Schubert, Verdi, Bach and Wagner.

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Arthur Sullivan became friendly with the future impresario Carl Rosa and the violinist Joseph Joachim, among others.

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Arthur Sullivan's graduation piece, completed in 1861, was a suite of incidental music to Shakespeare's The Tempest.

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Arthur Sullivan began building a reputation as England's most promising young composer.

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Arthur Sullivan embarked on his composing career with a series of ambitious works, interspersed with hymns, parlour songs and other light pieces in a more commercial vein.

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Arthur Sullivan's compositions were not enough to support him financially, and between 1861 and 1872 he worked as a church organist, which he enjoyed; as a music teacher, which he hated and gave up as soon as he could; and as an arranger of vocal scores of popular operas.

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Arthur Sullivan took an early opportunity to compose several pieces for royalty in connection with the wedding of the Prince of Wales in 1863.

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Arthur Sullivan's first surviving opera, Cox and Box, was written for a private performance.

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Arthur Sullivan's last major work of the 1860s was a short oratorio, The Prodigal Son, first given in Worcester Cathedral as part of the 1869 Three Choirs Festival to much praise.

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Arthur Sullivan's most enduring orchestral work, the Overture di Ballo, was composed for the Birmingham Festival in 1870.

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In 1871 Arthur Sullivan published his only song cycle, The Window, to words by Tennyson, and he wrote the first of a series of incidental music scores for productions of Shakespeare plays.

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Arthur Sullivan composed a dramatic cantata, On Shore and Sea, for the opening of the London International Exhibition, and the hymn "Onward, Christian Soldiers", with words by Sabine Baring-Gould.

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Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan then went their separate ways until they collaborated on three parlour ballads in late 1874 and early 1875.

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In 1873 Arthur Sullivan contributed songs to Burnand's Christmas "drawing room extravaganza", The Miller and His Man.

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Remembering that Gilbert had suggested a libretto to him, Carte engaged Arthur Sullivan to set it, and the result was the one-act comic opera Trial by Jury.

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Trial, starring Arthur Sullivan's brother Fred as the Learned Judge, became a surprise hit, earning glowing praise from the critics and playing for 300 performances over its first few seasons.

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Arthur Sullivan turned out more than 80 popular songs and parlour ballads, most of them written before the end of the 1870s.

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Arthur Sullivan accepted the latter post reluctantly, fearing that discharging the duties thoroughly would leave too little time for composing; in this he was correct.

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Arthur Sullivan was not effective in the post, and resigned in 1881.

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Arthur Sullivan composed the bright and cheerful music of Pinafore while suffering from excruciating pain from a kidney stone.

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The Times and several of the other papers agreed that although the piece was entertaining, Arthur Sullivan was capable of higher art, and frivolous light opera would hold him back.

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In 1880 Arthur Sullivan was appointed director of the triennial Leeds Music Festival.

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Arthur Sullivan invariably conducted the opening nights of the Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan operas.

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Arthur Sullivan repeatedly requested that Gilbert find a new subject.

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In 1886 Arthur Sullivan composed his second and last large-scale choral work of the decade.

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Arthur Sullivan had collaborated with no other librettist since 1875.

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Arthur Sullivan proposed instead that Sullivan should go ahead with his plan to write a grand opera, but should continue to compose comic works for the Savoy.

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Relationship between Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan suffered its most serious breach in April 1890, during the run of The Gondoliers, when Gilbert objected to Carte's financial accounts for the production, including a charge to the partnership for the cost of new carpeting for the Savoy Theatre lobby.

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Carte was building a new theatre to present Arthur Sullivan's forthcoming grand opera, and Arthur Sullivan sided with Carte, going so far as to sign an affidavit that contained erroneous information about old debts of the partnership.

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Gilbert took legal action against Carte and Arthur Sullivan, vowing to write no more for the Savoy, and so the partnership came to an acrimonious end.

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Arthur Sullivan returned to comic opera, but because of the fracture with Gilbert, he and Carte sought other collaborators.

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Arthur Sullivan came to disapprove of the leading lady, Nancy McIntosh, and refused to write another piece featuring her; Gilbert insisted that she must appear in his next opera.

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Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan reunited one more time, after McIntosh announced her retirement from the stage, for The Grand Duke .

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The collaboration did not go well: Arthur Sullivan wrote that Pinero and Comyns Carr were "gifted and brilliant men, with no experience in writing for music", and, when he asked for alterations to improve the structure, they refused.

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Arthur Sullivan's health was never robust – from his thirties his kidney disease often obliged him to conduct sitting down.

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Arthur Sullivan died of heart failure, following an attack of bronchitis, at his flat in London on 22 November 1900.

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Arthur Sullivan wished to be buried in Brompton Cemetery with his parents and brother, but by order of the Queen he was buried in St Paul's Cathedral.

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Arthur Sullivan's operas have often been adapted, first in the 19th century as dance pieces and in foreign adaptations of the operas themselves.

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Arthur Sullivan's operas are frequently performed, and parodied, pastiched, quoted and imitated in comedy routines, advertising, law, film, television, and other popular media.

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Arthur Sullivan has been portrayed on screen in The Story of Gilbert and Sullivan and Topsy-Turvy .

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Arthur Sullivan is celebrated not only for writing the Savoy operas and his other works, but for his influence on the development of modern American and British musical theatre.

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Arthur Sullivan never married, but he had serious love affairs with several women.

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Arthur Sullivan was a frequent visitor at the Scott Russell home in the mid-1860s, and by 1865 the affair was in full bloom.

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At some point in 1868 Arthur Sullivan started a simultaneous affair with Rachel's sister Louise .

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Arthur Sullivan met her in Paris around 1867, and the affair began in earnest soon after she moved to London in 1871.

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Arthur Sullivan's often performed Sullivan's songs at her famous Sunday soirees.

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Arthur Sullivan's became particularly associated with "The Lost Chord", singing it both in private and in public, often with Sullivan accompanying her.

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Arthur Sullivan's apparently became pregnant at least twice and procured abortions in 1882 and 1884.

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Arthur Sullivan had a roving eye, and his diary records the occasional quarrels when Ronalds discovered his other liaisons, but he always returned to her.

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In 1896 the 54-year-old Arthur Sullivan proposed marriage to the 22-year-old Violet Beddington, but she refused him.

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Arthur Sullivan loved to spend time in France, where his acquaintances included European royalty and where the casinos enabled him to indulge his passion for gambling.

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Arthur Sullivan enjoyed hosting private dinners and entertainments at his home, often featuring famous singers and well-known actors.

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Arthur Sullivan corresponded regularly with her when away from London, until her death in 1882.

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From June to August 1885, after The Mikado opened, Arthur Sullivan visited the family in Los Angeles and took them on a sightseeing trip of the American west.

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Arthur Sullivan's works comprise 24 operas, 11 full orchestral works, ten choral works and oratorios, two ballets, one song cycle, incidental music to several plays, more than 70 hymns and anthems, over 80 songs and parlour ballads, and a body of part songs, carols, and piano and chamber pieces.

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Meinhard Saremba notes that from Arthur Sullivan's first meeting with Rossini in Paris, in 1862, Rossini's output became a model for Arthur Sullivan's comic opera music, "as evidenced in several rhythmic patterns and constructions of long finales".

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Later he became more adventurous; Richard Silverman, writing in 2009, points to the influence of Liszt in later works – a harmonic ambiguity and chromaticism – so that by the time of The Golden Legend Arthur Sullivan had abandoned a home key altogether for the prelude.

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Arthur Sullivan disliked much of Wagner's Musikdrama, but he modelled the overture to The Yeomen of the Guard on the prelude of Die Meistersinger, which he described as "the greatest comic opera ever written".

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In composing the Savoy operas, Arthur Sullivan wrote the vocal lines of the musical numbers first, and these were given to the actors.

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Arthur Sullivan left the overtures until last and sometimes delegated their composition, based on his outlines, to his assistants, often adding his suggestions or corrections.

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Those Arthur Sullivan wrote himself include Thespis, Iolanthe, Princess Ida, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, The Grand Duke and probably Utopia, Limited.

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Arthur Sullivan adds that Sullivan rarely reached the same class of excellence in instrumental works, where he had no librettist to feed his imagination.

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Arthur Sullivan preferred to write in major keys, overwhelmingly in the Savoy operas, and even in his serious works.

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Arthur Sullivan was trained in the classical style, and contemporary music did not greatly attract him.

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Arthur Sullivan was not the first composer to combine themes in this way, but in Jacobs's phrase it became almost "the trademark of Sullivan's operetta style".

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Arthur Sullivan argued hard for an increase in the pit orchestra's size, and, starting with The Yeomen of the Guard, the orchestra was augmented with a second bassoon and a second tenor trombone.

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Arthur Sullivan generally orchestrated each score at almost the last moment, noting that the accompaniment for an opera had to wait until he saw the staging, so that he could judge how heavily or lightly to orchestrate each part of the music.

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Hughes especially notes Arthur Sullivan's clarinet writing, exploiting all registers and colours of the instrument, and his particular fondness for oboe solos.

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In early pieces, Arthur Sullivan drew on Mendelssohn's style in his music for The Tempest, Auber's in his Henry VIII music and Gounod's in The Light of the World.

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Arthur Sullivan made use of dance styles to enhance the sense of time or place in various scenes: gavottes in Ruddigore and The Gondoliers; a country dance in The Sorcerer; a nautical hornpipe in Ruddigore; and the Spanish cachucha and Italian saltarello and tarantella in The Gondoliers.

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Arthur Sullivan sometimes used Wagnerian leitmotifs for both comic and dramatic effect.

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Arthur Sullivan possesses all the natural ability to have given us an English opera, and, instead, he affords us a little more-or-less excellent fooling.

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On 14 August 1888 George Gouraud introduced Thomas Edison's phonograph to London in a press conference, including the playing of a piano and cornet recording of Arthur Sullivan's "The Lost Chord", one of the first recordings of music ever made.

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Since 1994, the International Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan Festival has released professional and amateur CDs and videos of its productions and other Arthur Sullivan recordings, and Ohio Light Opera has recorded several of the operas in the 21st century.

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