University of Hartford "H" Magazine - Winter 2019

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Sunday Afternoon at the Opera - German: Tom Jones; Sullivan: Cox and Box, Trial by Jury

07/31/2022 1:00 pm
07/31/2022 4:30 pm

 

Sunday Afternoon at the Opera host Keith Brown writes:

Edward German (1862-1936) became the acknowledged successor to Sir Arthur Sullivan in the vein of light opera. Even Sullivan himself declared that German was the only musician of genius who could follow him. Sullivan died leaving unfinished his last Savoy opera, The Emerald Isle (1901). German very ably completed the score, and won high praise from the music critics of the day. German's most well known work is Merrie England (1902), also written for the Savoy Theatre. I broadcast a recording of it on Sunday, July 26, 1998 and again on Sunday, July 28, 2019.

German's best work, musically and dramatically speaking, is Tom Jones (1907), based on the novel by Henry Fielding. German seems to have inherited Sullivan's gift for melody. Tom Jones has plenty of memorable tunes. Strangely, this charming English operetta had to wait until 2008 for its first musically complete recording. David Russell Hulme directed the National Festival Orchestra and Chorus, with a cast that includes seven(!) baritones. Naxos Records released it on two compact discs in 2009 in its "Operetta Classics" series. Last broadcast on Sunday, August 3, 2014, it's high time this summer to present Tom Jones again.

Keep listening for the lyric theater music of the young Arthur Sullivan from before his famous collaboration with William S. Gilbert. Sullivan's first professional collaboration in comic opera was with F. C. Burnand (1836-1917), the editor of Punch, the illustrious British satirical magazine. Together they concocted what was styled a "Triumviretta" for three male vocalists in one act: Cox and Box, or The Long Lost Brothers (1866). Victorian comic opera got its start on the London stage piggybacked on one of the opéras bouffes of Jacques Offenbach, who created the genre of operetta in Paris. Sullivan sketched his score on piano at its premiere, with a detailed working-out of the music at a later moment. Like Tom Jones, Cox and Box had to wait a long time for its premiere complete recording with reconstructed orchestration and linking dialog between the sung numbers. The UK label Chandos released Cox and Box in 2005, employing the edition prepared by Roger Harris from Sullivan's autograph manuscript.

Richard Hickox conducts the BBC National Orchestra of Wales in Cox and Box and again in Trial by Jury (1875), which was the first G & S comic opera, also in one act and styled a"Dramatic Cantata" when paired in premiere with Offenbach's La Périchole. Both these early works of the esteemed Savoyard composer fill out a single Chandos silver disc.