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The Sunday Opera: Sir Arthur Sullivan's "Ivanhoe"

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There have always been experimental operas, and we’re going to sample one on this week’s Sunday Opera (5/24 3:00 p.m.) with Sir Arthur Sullivan’s “Ivanhoe.”  Sullivan decided that the world needed a uniquely English opera written in what he called the “eclectic style” that would build on the existing forms found in European opera.  He based his new, experimental opera on Sir Walter Scott’s 1819 novel “Ivanhoe” which was a favorite of the British public.  With a libretto by Julian Sturgis, the opera premiered in January of 1891, ran for 155 consecutive performances, which was then a record, only to virtually disappear by the beginning of the 20th century.  Ivanhoe is a knight who is faithful to Richard the Lionheart which puts him at odds with the Saxons in England of the time.  If you know the novel, you may find Sturgis’ libretto interesting as it seems to focus on all of the scenes that happen between the events that occur in the novel. 

Our cast includes Toby Spence as Ivanhoe and Janice Watson as the Lady Rowena.  They’re joined by Geraldine McGreevy, Neal Davies, Stephen Gadd, and James Rutherford with the Adrian Partington Singers and the BBC National Orchestra of Wales with David Lloyd-Jones conducting.  After the opera we’ll have more music of Sullivan with the ballet score for “Pineapple Poll” which is an arrangement by Charles Mackerras of many of Sullivan’s melodies from the operas he wrote with W.S. Gilbert to a story Gilbert penned in his “Bab Ballads.” 

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.