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Arthur Sullivan

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Sir Arthur S. Sullivan (May 13, 1842 - November 22, 1900) was a British composer best known for his operatic collaborations with librettist William S. Gilbert.

Sullivan's father was a military bandmaster, and by the time Sullivan had reached the age of 8, he was proficient with all the instruments in the band. Following a stay a private school, he received an appointment to the Chapel Royal School. While there, he began to compose anthems and songs. In 1856, he received the first Mendelssohn prize and became a student at the Royal Academy of Music until 1858.

In 1858, Sullivan travelled to Leipzig, where he continued his studies and took up conducting. He credits this period with tremendous musical growth, and his return to London in 1862 saw the production of his orchestral suite to Shakespeare's The Tempest performed at the Crystal Palace. He began building a reputation as Britain's premiere composer, and 1866 saw the first performance of his Symphony in E Flat (Irish). Other pieces from this period include In Memoriam, The Lost Chord, The Prodigal Son and Onward Christian Soldiers.

In 1867, he supplemented his income by producing the musical score to a one act operetta, Cox and Box. This led to his most famous and lucrative works as a composer for the musical theatre.

In the autumn of that year, he travelled with Sir George Grove to Vienna, returning with a treasure-trove of undiscovered Schubert scores.

In 1871, John Hollingshead commissioned Sullivan to work with Gilbert to create the operetta Thespis for the Gaiety Theatre. Sullivan was unhappy with the results and destroyed the score following the shows run. Years after his death, a copy of the score turned up, but was destroyed by fire before its value was realized.

Gilbert and Sullivan's real collaborative efforts began in 1875 when Richard D'Oyly Carte commissioned them to write a one act play, Trial by Jury. The success was so great that the three men formed an oftentimes turbulent partnership which lasted for twenty years and fourteen operettas.

In 1876, the pair journeyed to America to protect their copyrights. While in New York, they produced their successful Pirates of Penzance.

Shortly after returning to England, Sullivan was knighted by Queen Victoria.

Despite the financial solvency the Savoy operas gave him, Sullivan always viewed his work with Gilbert as unimportant and beneath his skills. Furthermore he was unhappy that he was having to tone down his music to ensure that Gilbert's words could be heard. In 1890, Sullivan broke away from Gilbert following the production of The Gondoliers and, with D'Oyly Carte, produced his only grand opera, Ivanhoe, at the new English Opera House. He returned to work with Gilbert on two more operettas and wrote three more with other collaborators.

Sullivan, who had suffered from ill health throughout his life, painfully succumbed to bronchitis on November 22, 1900. A monument in his memory was erected in the Victoria Gardens (London)[?].



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