Burnand and Sullivan headline the Lyric Stage this Sunday 7/21 at 8 PM.
Sir Arthur Sullivan was a gregarious bon vivant who moved in the highest of social circles, but also a composer of "serious" intention. His works included a full length opera and oratorios, and a song cycle to the poems of Tennyson, as well as the hymn "Onward Christian Soldiers." His professional career included nearly two decades as conductor of the Leeds Triennial Music Festival and three years as conductor of the Philharmonic Society of London. But his operettas are why we remember him.
His first two operettas were with a librettist named F. C. Burnand, and Grove's describes them as "agreeable diversions on a serious composer's path." But they were the beginnings of his true calling. The first of these two operettas with Burnand was Cox and Box, and that is our first music this week on the Lyric Stage. It was based on a play called Box and Cox. One of the reviewers for Cox and Box was W. S. Gilbert, several years before he would collaborate with Sullivan. "…Mr. Sullivan’s music is, in many places, of too high a class for the grotesquely absurd plot to which it is wedded."
So what was the plot that so offended Mr. Gilbert? Sergeant Bouncer, an old soldier, has a scheme to get double rent from a single room. By day he lets it to Mr. Box (a printer who is out all night) and by night to Mr. Cox (a hatter who works all day). Whenever either of them asks any awkward questions he sings at length about his days in the militia.
But inevitably, Box and Cox discover each other and what is going on. They also find that they are engaged to the same woman, Penelope, who neither one wants to marry. There is confusion about whether she has been lost at sea. If she is lost, then both what her money, which was left to her intended. But she isn’t after all dead, and plans to marry another, a Mr. Knox. Relieved, Cox and Box swear eternal friendship and discover, curiously enough, that they are long-lost brothers. Proof is that neither has a birthmark on their left arm.
We also with have selections from Gilbert and Sullivan's Rudigore. Isadore Godfrey conducts the D'oyly Carte opera in both performances.