Musical (1899)

Musique: Arthur Sullivan
Paroles: Basil Hood
Livret: Basil Hood
Production à la création:

Hassan is a rich philanthropist who entertains beggar-men at his house, much to the dismay of his 25 wives. The Sultana, escaping the strict confines of the royal household, hides in Hassan's house with her three favourite slaves disguised as dancing girls. She is followed by the Sultan, who is bored with his obligations, accompanied by his three top officials. Hassan, while under the influence of the drug bhang, admits to the Sultan that the Sultana is in his house, thus compromising her life and his own. To punish Hassan (and to give himself a little holiday), the Sultan takes him to the palace and commands his court to treat Hassan as if he were sultan.

Synopsis complet

Based on the story Abu Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened from the Arabian Nights.

When the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership collapsed after the production of The Gondoliers in 1889, impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte struggled to find successful new works for the Savoy Theatre. He was able to bring Gilbert and Sullivan together briefly for two more operas (Utopia, Limited and The Grand Duke), neither of which was a great success. He also paired Sullivan with several other librettists, but none of the resulting operas were particularly successful. Carte's other new pieces for the Savoy in the 1890s had done no better. In Basil Hood, Sullivan finally found a congenial new collaborator, giving the Savoy its first significant success since the early 1890s. Sullivan worked together on the new piece, originally entitled Hassan, over the summer of 1899. Unlike W. S. Gilbert, Hood did not direct his own works, and the Savoy's stage manager, Richard Barker, acted as stage director. Costumes were designed by Percy Anderson.

The casting of the soprano to play the leading role of the Sultana Zubedyah was problematic. Sullivan had been much impressed by the American high soprano Ellen Beach Yaw, and he prevailed upon the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company to cast her in the role. Leading soprano Ruth Vincent quit the company when she was passed over for the role (although she soon played the Sultana in New York). Sullivan wrote a special high cadenza for one of Yaw's songs, "'Neath My Lattice," to show off her extraordinary range. Yaw's first two nights were shaky, though the reviews were mixed, and both the music director, Francois Cellier, and Mrs. Carte advocated her replacement. Sullivan at first agreed, though writing in his diary on 2 December 1899, "I don’t quite see what it’s all about — Miss Yaw is not keeping people out of the theatre as Cellier and the Cartes imply." By 10 December, however, he wrote in his diary that Yaw was "improving rapidly" and "sang the song really superbly: brilliant. So I wrote again to Mrs. Carte saying that I thought if we let Miss Yaw go it would be another mistake." It was too late, however, and the next day Yaw was dismissed summarily by Mrs. Carte (ostensibly on account of illness). Isabel Jay was promoted to play the part.

The first performance, on 29 November 1899, was a reassuring success – the first that the Savoy had enjoyed since Utopia Limited six years earlier. The piece played for a total of 211 performances, closing on 28 June 1900, and D'Oyly Carte touring companies soon were performing The Rose of Persia around the British provinces and then throughout the English-speaking world. In New York, it opened at Daly's Theatre on 6 September 1900, closing on 29 September 1900 after 25 performances. Ruth Vincent played the Sultana, Hassan was John Le Hay, the Sultan was Charles Angelo, and Yussuf was Sidney Bracy. After Rose proved to be a hit, Sullivan and Hood teamed up again, but the composer died, leaving their second collaboration, The Emerald Isle, unfinished. The Rose of Persia was Sullivan's last completed opera.

Rose is firmly reminiscent of the style of the earlier Savoy successes, with its topsy-turvy plot, mistaken identities, the constant threat of executions, an overbearing wife, and a fearsome monarch who is fond of practical joking. Although critics found Hood inferior to Gilbert, his delight in comic word-play at times resembles the work of his great predecessor. With its episodic plot, its exotic setting, and its emphasis on dance numbers, Rose also takes a step towards musical comedy, which by 1899 was the dominant genre on the London stage.

The only professional British revival of The Rose of Persia was at Princes Theatre in London from 28 February 1935 to 23 March 1935, closing after 25 performances. This immediately followed a successful revival of Merrie England by Hood and Edward German. The producer, R. Claude Jenkins, hoped to make the Princes the home of a series of British light opera, but the disappointing response to The Rose of Persia quashed these plans.

In recent decades, interest in performing the work has revived among amateur and professional societies. The work has been seen several times at The International Gilbert and Sullivan Festival in Buxton, England (most recently in concert in 2008), and the Festival has a video of the 2008 performance available. The New York Gilbert and Sullivan Players performed the opera at New York City Center in January 2007. The St. David's Players of Exeter in the UK performed the piece in October 2009 having previously presented it in October 1990.

The first recording of The Rose of Persia was released in 1963 by St. Albans Amateur Operatic Society. Another recording was made in 1985 by Prince Consort, and one was produced for BBC Music Magazine in 1999. Although the BBC recording is the most professionally produced, many fans prefer the earlier recordings.

Abu Hassan, or The Sleeper Awakened
Titre complet: The Rose of Persia, or, the Story Teller and the Slave

Overture (includes: "Hark, the distant roll of drums" and "Hassan, thy pity I entreat")

Act I
1."As We lie in langour lazy... I'm Abu'l Hassan" (Chorus of Girls [Wives], with Hassan)
2. "When Islam first arose" (Abdallah with Girls)
3. "O Life has put into my hand" (Dancing Sunbeam)
4. "Sunbeam, the priest keeps saying... If a sudden stroke of fate" (Blush-of-Morning, Dancing Sunbeam, and Abdallah)
5. "If you ask me to advise you" (Rose-in-Bloom, Scent-of-Lilies, and Heart's Desire)
6. "'Neath my lattice through the night" (Rose-in-Bloom)
7. "Tramps and scamps and halt and blind" (Chorus of Beggars and Girls)
8. "When my father sent me to Ishpahan" (Hassan with Chorus)
9. "Peace be upon this house... I care not if the cup I hold" (Yussuf with Chorus)
10. "Musical Maidens are we... Dance and Song (Ensemble, Honey-of-Life and Hassan with Chorus and Dancers)
11. "We have come to invade" (Abdallah with Hassan and Chorus)
12."The Sultan's Executioner" (Dancing Sunbeam, Rose-in-Bloom, Scent-of-Lillies, Heart's Desire, Honey-of-Life,Yussuf, Hassan, and Abdallah)
13. "I'm the Sultan's Vigiliant Vizier" (Sultan, Vizier, Physician, and Executioner)
14. "Oh, luckless hour!" (Company)

Act II
15. "Oh, What is love?" (Heart's Desire and Yussuf)
16. "If you or I, should tell the truth" (Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life, Heart's Desire, and Yussuf)
17. "From morning prayer" (Physician, Grand Vizier, and Executioner with Chorus)
18."Let the satirist enumerate a catalogue" (Sultan with Chorus)
19. "In my heart of my hearts I've always known" (Dancing Sunbeam, with Blush-of-Morning, Honey-of-Life, Heart's Desire, Sultan, Vizier, and Physician)
20. "Suppose - I say, Suppose" (Rose-in-Bloom and Sultan)
21 "Laughing low, on Tip-toe" (Hassan, Physician, Vizier, and Executioner with Chorus)
22 "It's a busy, busy, busy, busy day for thee" (Scent of Lilies, Heart's Desire, Yussuf, Hassan, and Executioner, with Chorus)
23. "Our tale is told" (Yussuf)
24. "What does it mean?... Joy and Sorrow Alternate" (Dancing Sunbeam, Blush-of-Morning, Yussuf, and a Royal Guard[13])
25. "It has reached me a lady named Hubbard" (Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life, Heart's Desire, Dancing Sunbeam, Yussuf, Hassan, and Abdallah)
26. "Hassan, the sultan with his court approaches" (Hassan, Physician, Executioner, Vizier, Sultan, and Chorus)
27. "There was once a small street arab" (Hassan with Chorus)
28. "A bridal march" (Company)

The Sultan Mahmoud of Persia
Abu-el-Hassan, a philanthropist
Yussuf, a professional story-teller
Abdallah, a priest
The Grand Vizier
The Physician-in-Chief
The Royal Executioner
The Sultana Zubeydeh (Rose-in-Bloom)
Dancing Sunbeam, Hassan's first wife
Blush-of-Morning, his twenty-fifth wife
Heart's Desire, Honey-of-Life, Scent-of-Lilies, the Sultana's favourite slaves
Oasis-in-the-Desert, Moon-upon-the-Waters, Song-of-Nightingales, Whisper-of-the-West-Wind, wives of Hassan, etc.


  Background of creation 

  Nouvelle Leading Lady 

Version 1

Rose of Persia (The) (1899-11-Savoy Theatre-London)

Type de série: Original
Théâtre: Savoy Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)
Durée :
Nombre : 220 représentations
Première Preview : jeudi 01 janvier 1970
Première : jeudi 01 janvier 1970
Dernière : jeudi 01 janvier 1970
Mise en scène :
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Commentaires longs: The part of Sultana Zubeydeh (Rose-in-Bloom) was created by the American soprano Ellen Beach Yaw. She had a remarkable voice and she sang "'Neath my Lattice" in B major — a minor third higher than the version which appeared in the vocal score. This took her up to the F sharp in alt., a semi-tone higher than the highest note given by Mozart to the Queen of the Night in The Magic Flute.
Presse : It is a long time since a success like that of The Rose of Persia has befallen the management of this theatre; and in fact it may be said that since the days of The Mikado it is not easy to point to a first night that has pleased everybody, including those whom it is best worth while to please, whether from the artistic or the financial point of view. An extremely well-contrived libretto, in which various motives from the “Arabian Nights” are combined with excellent effect by Captain Basil Hood, has been set by Sir Arthur Sullivan with all the spontaneity and refinement of his earlier years, and the result is an entertainment that yields to none of its predecessors in charm or brightness.

The main thread of the story is the famous “Sleeper Awakened” which has served such different purposes, from the introduction to The Taming of the Shrew to Weber’s Abu Hassan; with this several stories are interwoven, such as the adventures of the Sultana Zubeydeh and several others of the “ nights”; the verses and dialogue are really funny and original, and the Gilbertian standard in regard to the kind of social satire with which the patrons of the theatre were formerly more familiar than they are now has been fully maintained. The author has a happy knack of putting things, and many a couplet of “Something in the City” will pass into the current small change of conversation besides the lines to the effect that

“Riches and imposing rank
“Have sprung from rank imposing.”

To enumerate the points of skill and beauty in the music would on this occasion be as difficult as on some former first nights it bas been easy. Brilliant solos, concerted pieces, and dances succeed one another after the fashion of the best traditions of the Savoy, and not the least pleasant part of the surprise that awaits the hearers is the originality of the whole. Oriental characteristics are used with the greatest ingenuity, as in the two notes on which the chorus of beggars accompanies the diverting dance of Hassan in the first act, and here and there in other passages there is a slight “local” allusion of the same kind. The most popular of the many numbers written in a popular style is the tenor drinking song which succeeds this immediately.

The only important defect of the music is that the leading soprano part has been written for the curious high notes possessed by Miss Ellen Beach Yaw, who, as the Sultana, is required in her first number to attack the F in altiss., the highest note of the Queen of Night music in Die Zauberflöte. Her song “’Neath my lattice” has a charming ring of Weber about it; but it can hardly be hoped that there are as many owners of these notes as will undoubtedly be required before long. The Sultana’s plea for mercy in the finale of the first act must remind every hearer of Rebecca’s prayer in Ivanhoe, just as the rather unnecessary quartet in the second act recalls the misnamed “madrigal” in The Mikado. A deliciously funny scene in which the Sultan and his officials enter Hassan’s house disguised as Dervishes will probably be made even more effective than it was last night; but the scene in which various persons under sentence of death try and think of a story with which to entertain the Sultan and so prolong their lives is one of the great hits, and the finale is capital. Until its latter part is reached this second act is, to say the truth, a little apt to drag, but it more than makes up.

Putting aside Miss Beach Yaw’s high notes, she looks very pretty and acts with some charm; but the principal part is that played by Miss Rosina Brandram as the first of Hassan’s 25 wives; in a wonderful make-up she acts and sings with the utmost vivacity, point, and effect. Misses Jessie Rose, Louie Pounds, and Emmie Owen are very lively slaves, and as the youngest of the wives Miss Isabel Jay wins success. As Hassan, Mr. Passmore is in his element, and from beginning to end he makes the very most of the many good chances the librettist has given him. Mr. H. A. Lytton is a handsome Sultan, but scarcely gets as much fun out of his part as it might be made to yield, while Mr. Robert Evett sings the somewhat lackadaisical part of the story-teller Yussuf very well. Mr. Reginald Crompton, a very tall basso, with an excellently comic face, is capital as the Royal Executioner; and it would be impossible to praise too highly the lovely dresses and scenery of the piece, or the care in its preparation, which at the Savoy is a matter of course. The author, the composer, and Mr. D’Oyly Carte were called before the curtain at the end.

The Times - Thursday, November 30, 1899

Version 2

Rose of Persia (The) (1935-02-Princes Theatre-London)

Type de série:
Théâtre: Shaftesbury Theatre (Londres - Angleterre)

Durée :
Nombre : 25 représentations
Première Preview : jeudi 28 février 1935
Première : jeudi 28 février 1935
Dernière : Inconnu
Mise en scène : William J. Wilson
Chorégraphie :
Producteur :
Avec : Joseph Spree (Abu-el Hassan), Amy Augarde (Dancing Sunbeam), Franklyn Kelsey (Abdallah), Lilian Keyes (Blush of Morning), Robert Naylor (Yussuf), Helene Raye (Sultana), Eddie Garr (The Sultan), Leonard Russell (The Vizier), Phillip Merritt (The Physician), Norman Greene (Executioner)
Commentaires : Il s'agit du premier revival à Londres, bien que l'œuvre a été présentée par de très nombreuses compagnies amateur. Ce sera une grosse déception se jouant moins d'un mois!

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