From time to time Victorian Opera Northwest receive comments and letters making suggestions for resurrecting forgotten British operas and musicals. Our full opera recordings have featured Balfe, W V Wallace (both Irish) G Macfarren, Sullivan as well as a collection of overtures from 1834-1893 by Balfe, Barnett, Benedict, Loder, Macfarren, Goring Thomas, Wallace, and now Cellier.
These composers had clearly learnt their theatre skills and the orchestration demonstrates that they have learnt their craft to a very high standard despite a sometimes lack of higher education. Over the last year we have had requests for a lighter vein of operetta, the most interesting of which is Alfred Cellier. An Englishman of French parentage he was a chorister with Sullivan at the Chapel Royal before acquiring formal musical education. A notable musical director of a theatre orchestra he composed six operettas/musicals. When he became Sullivanís musical director for the Savoy Operas in London and New York premiŤres he wrote 10 curtain-raisers to accompany the Gilbert & Sullivan operas.
A few of Cellierís curtain raisers and light operas have become of 21st century interest. His first three operas were written when musical director at the Theatre Royal, Manchester. Of them,The Sultan of Mocha written in 1874 reached New York. Others failed to interest the wider theatre public yet he persevered. His Nell Gwynne was written to a book by H B Farnie. The librettist blamed the composer for its failure while the composer blamed the librettist. Both replaced their partnerships; Cellier decided to revise Nell Gwynne by inviting B C Stevenson (a librettist of Sullivanís The Zoo) to write the new book. Dorothy was the result and became a tremendous West End success that out-shone the popular Mikado, which was playing concurrently.
A project is underway by Victorian Opera to record this forgotten comic opera, Dorothy. With no autograph and the music presumed lost, extensive research eventually uncovered the band parts. From them a full score has been prepared by Michael Harris and matched to the extant vocal score. It is proposed to record the work to discover the secret of its fascinating, unbridled success. The project will be carried out in conjunction with the excellent student musicians and singers of the Royal Northern College of Music under guest musical director, Richard Bonynge.
To be able to accomplish this task we need to attract the support of sponsors and subscribers who have an interest in helping revive our British Musical Heritage. More information on the project and composer, Cellier can be obtained from www.victorianoperanorthwest.org We hope to welcome you.
Chairman, Victorian Opera
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