University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - German: Merrie England; Cellier: Dorothy

07/28/2019 1:00 pm
07/28/2019 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

I normally reserve this Sunday in July for broadcast of one of the comic operas of Gilbert and Sullivan. Edward German (born, Edward German Jones, 1862-1936) is rightly regarded as the successor to Sir Arthur Sullivan as a composer for the English lyric stage. One of German's most popular works was Merrie England (1902), to a libretto by Basil Hood. This romantic comedy is set in Elizabethan times. Classics for Pleasure reached into EMI's archives and in 1995 reissued on compact disc a 1960 recording of Merrie England with tenor William McAlpine as Sir Walter Raleigh and soprano Monica Sinclair as Good Queen Bess. I last broadcast this now historic recording of Merrie England on Sunday, July 26,1998.

Alfred Cellier (1844-1891) was a contemporary of Sullivan's in the swim of London's musical life in the Victorian era. He had a close connection to Sullivan and D'Oyly Carte in the creation of the G&S canon of operettas. He wrote some of the overtures to those famous G&S works. He stood in for Sullivan himself conducting in the pit in their actual staged performance at the Savoy Theatre. Cellier was a considerable composer for the British musical stage. His Dorothy (1886) was an enormous box office hit. Cellier's pastoral light opera, set in rural England, long outran The Mikado in its initial production. This show made so much money it funded the building of the Lyric Theatre on Shaftesbury Avenue in London's Broadway-like theater district. Cellier's charming music for Dorothy has received its world premiere recording for the Naxos label at the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester. The veteran opera conductor Richard Bonynge leads a singing cast of young operatic voices starring the Irish soprano Majella Cullagh in the title role. For Naxos, Bonynge has conducted a series of recordings of forgotten nineteenth- century English lyric theaterworks, drawing upon the performing resources of Victorian Opera Northwest. Cellier's Dorothy has just been released on a single Naxos CD.