NewCA Blog How To
View Cart
Use Facebook login
LOGOUT  Welcome

Composer (MIDI)

Sir Arthur Sullivan (1842-1900); ENG

Loading, please wait...
Sir Arthur Sullivan

Sullivan, (Sir) Arthur (Seymour) (b Lambeth, 1842; d Westminster, 1900). Eng. composer, conductor, and organist. Son of Irish bandmaster at Sandhurst. Chorister, Chapel Royal, 1854. First comp., an anthem, pubd. 1855. First holder of Mendelssohn Scholarship, RAM, 1856, becoming pupil of Goss and Sterndale Bennett. Went to Leipzig Cons. where his teachers incl. Rietz, David, and Moscheles. Returned to Eng. 1861 and became organist, St Michael, Chester Sq. In 1862 his mus. for Shakespeare's The Tempest was played under Manns at Crystal Palace and made Sullivan's name. Ballet L'Île enchantée prod. CG 1864 and cantata Kenilworth Birmingham Fest. later same year. To 1864 also belongs comp. of Irish Symphony. Prof. of comp. RAM 1866, in which year he wrote vc. conc. for Piatti. Went with Grove to Vienna in 1867 to recover Schubert's Rosamunde mus. and to examine MS of ‘Great’ C major Sym. In 1866 wrote light opera Cox and Box, first of works in genre which was to ensure Sullivan's lasting fame.

For a time, however, Sullivan persisted with oratorio (The Prodigal Son, Worcester 1869) and incidental mus. to Shakespeare. In 1871 met playwright William Schwenck Gilbert (1836-1911) and collaborated in unsuccessful light opera Thespis, following it in 1872 with tune for hymn ‘Onward, Christian Soldiers’. Festival Te Deum followed, then another Birmingham oratorio, The Light of the World (1873). By now much in demand as cond. and administrator, and was also friend of royalty. In 1875 another collaboration with Gilbert, engineered by Richard D'Oyly Carte, resulted in successful curtain-raiser Trial by Jury. This led to D'Oyly Carte's leasing of Opéra-Comique Th. especially to produce operas by Gilbert and Sullivan. The Sorcerer (1877) justified the risk, running for 175 nights, but this was eclipsed by the 700-night run of H.M.S. Pinafore (1878). Despite copyright pirates, these works were in demand throughout the Western world, particularly in USA. The Pirates of Penzance (1879) continued run of success, followed by Patience (1881). During run of Patience, D'Oyly Carte opened his new th., the Savoy, and the operas became known as the Savoy operas and the cast ‘Savoyards’. Sullivan was knighted 1883. It is a tragic irony that Sullivan and some of his friends felt that the success of the operettas was beneath the dignity of the dir. of the Nat. Training Sch. for Mus., 1876-81; they were happier with The Martyr of Antioch (Leeds 1880) and The Golden Legend (Leeds 1886) than with Iolanthe (1882), Princess Ida (1883), and The Mikado (1885). These were followed by further ‘hits’: Ruddigore (1886), The Yeomen of the Guard (1888), and The Gondoliers (1889). During run of the last-named, the 2 partners quarrelled (supposedly over a new carpet at the Savoy Th.). Haddon Hall (1892) was comp. to a lib. by S. Grundy. Reconciliation with Gilbert led to Utopia Limited (1893) and The Grand Duke (1896). During quarrel, Sullivan's only ‘grand opera’, Ivanhoe, to a lib. by Julian Sturgis, was prod. in 1891 at new Eng. Opera House built by D'Oyly Carte. Had 160 perfs., but costly venture failed and th. became a mus.-hall. By then, Sullivan's health was beginning to rebel against the strain he put on it. He was cond. of the Phil. Soc. 1885-7, frequently cond. at the Hallé Concerts in Manchester, was cond. of the Leeds Fest. from 1883, and continued to write th. mus., anthems, etc. In his last years his path crossed that of the rising Elgar. He died on St Cecilia's Day 1900 at comparatively early age of 58.

Sullivan's ‘serious’ work, by which he set such store, survives in the occasional ch. from The Golden Legend and the infrequent revivals of his sym. and incidental mus. and of Ivanhoe. These show talent, not quite as much, it could be argued, as in his hymn-tunes and in his popular ballads, such as My dearest heart and The Lost Chord (written in 1877 on the death of his brother and given a further lease of fame by the Amer. comedian Jimmy ‘Schnozzle’ Durante in his song ‘The guy who found the Lost Chord’). But in the Savoy operettas there is genius. In them Sullivan's melodic felicity, light-fingered orchestration, and truly astonishing gift for pastiche and parody (Handel, Verdi, Donizetti, Wagner—all are paid the compliment of witty imitation) found their proper outlet and gave England a unique type of mus. entertainment and cult. Sometimes parody seems to have taken over completely and one longs to call out ‘Will the real Sullivan stand up?’ At other times, Gilbert's cruelties and facetiousness become oppressive; also the stylized, unchanging ritual of the D'Oyly Carte prods. became wearisome except to devotees, of whom there are millions, seemingly versed in every phrase of both mus. and lib. With such a following, Sullivan's fame seems secure for as long as one dares to foretell. Prin. works:

OPERA: Ivanhoe (1890).

OPERETTAS (where no librettist is given, Gilbert is implied): Cox and Box (Burnand, 1866); Contrabandista (Burnand, 1867); Thespis (1871, lost); Trial by Jury (1875); The Zoo (Stevenson, 1875); The Sorcerer (1877, rev. 1884); H.M.S. Pinafore (1878); The Pirates of Penzance (1879); Patience (1880-1); Iolanthe (1882); Princess Ida (1883-4); The Mikado (1884-5); Ruddigore (1886-7); The Yeomen of the Guard (1888); The Gondoliers (1889); Haddon Hall (Grundy, 1892); Utopia Limited (1893); The Chieftain (Burnand, 1894); The Grand Duke (1895-6); The Beauty Stone (Pinero and Comyns Carr, 1897-8); The Rose of Persia (Hood, 1899); The Emerald Isle (Hood, 1900, mus. completed by German).

INCIDENTAL MUSIC: Shakespeare: The Tempest (1862); The Merchant of Venice (1871); The Merry Wives of Windsor (1874); King Henry VIII (1877); Macbeth (1888); The Foresters (Tennyson, 1892); King Arthur (Comyns Carr, 1894).

ORCH.: sym. in E (Irish) (1864-6); Ov., In Memoriam (1866); Overture Di Ballo (1870); Imperial March (1893); vc. conc. (1866).

CHORAL: Oratorios: The Prodigal Son (1869); The Light of the World (1873, rev. 1890); The Martyr of Antioch (1880, rev. as opera 1898); Cantatas: Kenilworth (1864); On Shore and Sea (1871); The Golden Legend (1886).

Also songs, chamber mus., ballads, hymns, anthems.

Copyright © 1996 Oxford University Press - By permission of Oxford University Press

Recommended Oxford books


Read biography at

Sir Arthur Sullivan, (Sir) Arthur (Seymour) (b Lambeth, 1842; d Westminster, 1900). Eng. composer, conductor, and organist. Son of Irish bandmaster at... More
Files of this type are not available at this time. Please select ALL from above.
  • Recordings:
  • Stage Works
    • With W.S. Gilbert
    • With Other Librettists
Files of this type are not available at this time. Please select ALL from above.
  • Free Play:
  • Stage Works
    • With W.S. Gilbert
    • With Other Librettists
The 0 or 1 suffix on the download button indicates the type of the MIDI file: Type 0 or Type 1. Some Disklavier, for example, can only play one or the other type. You should experiment first to see which type is compatible with your hardware.

MuseScoreFor a great experience with MIDI files, we recommend the MuseScore - a free music composition and notation software - which shows you the score as you play the file!
© 1994-2024 Classical Archives LLC — The Ultimate Classical Music Destination ™