Musical (1875)

Musique: Arthur Sullivan
Livret: W.S. Gilbert
Production à la création:

La deuxième collaboration de Gilbert et Sullivan, qui est aussi leur premier "triomphe" et leur seul opéra-comique en un acte.

Edwin a demandé Angelina en mariage, mais aujourd'hui, il ne veut plus l'épouser. Elle l'attaque en justice pour "rupture de promesse". Nous allons donc assister à ce procès où chacun des deux jeunes va tout faire pour influer sur le niveau des dommages et intérêts. Et où surtout où va se rendre compte à quel point un procès peut ne pas être équitable…

Synopsis complet

Before Trial by Jury, W. S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan had collaborated on one previous opera, Thespis; or, The Gods Grown Old, in 1871. Although reasonably successful, it was a Christmas entertainment, and such works were not expected to endure. Between Thespis and Trial by Jury, Gilbert and Sullivan did not collaborate on any further operas, and each man separately produced works that further built his reputation in his own field. Gilbert wrote several short stories, edited the second volume of his comic Bab Ballads, and created a dozen theatrical works, including Happy Arcadia in 1872; The Wicked World, The Happy Land and The Realm of Joy in 1873; Charity, Topsyturveydom and Sweethearts in 1874. At the same time, Sullivan wrote various pieces of religious music, including the Festival Te Deum (1872) and an oratorio, The Light of the World (1873), and edited Church Hymns, with Tunes (1874), which included 45 of his own hymns and arrangements. Two of his most famous hymn tunes from this period are settings of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" and "Nearer, my God, to Thee" (both in 1872). He also wrote a suite of incidental music to The Merry Wives of Windsor (1874) and many parlour ballads and other songs, including three in 1874–75 with words by Gilbert: "The Distant Shore", "Sweethearts" (inspired by Gilbert's play) and "The Love that Loves Me Not".

Genesis of the opera

The genesis of Trial by Jury was in 1868, when Gilbert wrote a single-page illustrated comic piece for the magazine Fun entitled Trial by Jury: An Operetta. Drawing on Gilbert's training and brief practice as a barrister, it detailed a "breach of promise" trial going awry, in the process spoofing the law, lawyers and the legal system. (In the Victorian era, a man could be required to pay compensation should he fail to marry a woman to whom he was engaged.) The outline of this story was followed in the later opera, and two of its numbers appeared in nearly their final form in Fun. The skit, however, ended abruptly: the moment the attractive plaintiff stepped into the witness box, the judge leapt into her arms and vowed to marry her, whereas in the opera, the case is allowed to proceed further before this conclusion is reached.
In 1873, the opera manager and composer Carl Rosa asked Gilbert for a piece to use as part of a season of English opera that Rosa planned to present at the Drury Lane Theatre; Rosa was to write or commission the music. Gilbert expanded Trial into a one-act libretto. Rosa's wife, Euphrosyne Parepa-Rosa, a childhood friend of Gilbert's, died after an illness in 1874, and Rosa dropped the project. Later in the same year, Gilbert offered the libretto to the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte, but Carte knew of no composer available to set it to music.
Meanwhile, Sullivan may have been considering a return to light opera: Cox and Box, his first comic opera, had received a London revival (co-starring his brother, Fred Sullivan) in September 1874. In November, Sullivan travelled to Paris and contacted Albert Millaud, one of the librettists for Jacques Offenbach's operettas. However, he returned to London empty-handed and worked on incidental music for the Gaiety Theatre's production of The Merry Wives of Windsor. By early 1875, Carte was managing Selina Dolaro's Royalty Theatre, and he needed a short opera to be played as an afterpiece to Offenbach's La Périchole, which was to open on 30 January (with Fred Sullivan in the cast), in which Dolaro starred. Carte had asked Sullivan to compose something for the theatre and advertised in The Times in late January: "In Preparation, a New Comic Opera composed expressly for this theatre by Mr. Arthur Sullivan in which Madame Dolaro and Nellie Bromley will appear." But around the same time, Carte also remembered Gilbert's Trial by Jury and knew that Gilbert had worked with Sullivan to create Thespis. He suggested to Gilbert that Sullivan was the man to write the music for Trial.

Gilbert finally called on Sullivan and read the libretto to him on 20 February 1875. Sullivan was enthusiastic, later recalling, "[Gilbert] read it through ... in the manner of a man considerably disappointed with what he had written. As soon as he had come to the last word, he closed up the manuscript violently, apparently unconscious of the fact that he had achieved his purpose so far as I was concerned, inasmuch as I was screaming with laughter the whole time." Trial by Jury, described as "A Novel and Original Dramatic Cantata" in the original promotional material, was composed and rehearsed in a matter of weeks.

Production and aftermath

The result of Gilbert and Sullivan's collaboration was a witty, tuneful and very "English" piece, in contrast to the bawdy burlesques and adaptations of French operettas that dominated the London musical stage at that time.
A programme cover for the Royalty Theatre printed in black and blue with engraved illustrations and decorations. There is a large illustration of the main attraction, La Périchole, but caricatures of Gilbert and Sullivan as cherubs frame a portrait of Selina Dolaro.
Initially, Trial by Jury, which runs only 30 minutes or so, was played last on a triple bill, on which the main attraction, La Périchole (starring Dolaro as the title character, Fred Sullivan as Don Andres and Walter H. Fisher as Piquillo), was preceded by the one-act farce Cryptoconchoidsyphonostomata. The latter was immediately replaced by a series of other curtain raisers. The composer conducted the first night's performance, and the theatre's music director, B. Simmons, conducted thereafter. The composer's brother, Fred Sullivan, starred as the Learned Judge, with Nellie Bromley as the Plaintiff. One of the choristers in Trial by Jury, W. S. Penley, was promoted in November 1875 to the small part of the Foreman of the Jury and made a strong impact on audiences with his amusing facial expressions and gestures. In March 1876, he temporarily replaced Fred Sullivan as the Judge, when Fred's health declined from tuberculosis. With this start, Penley went on to a successful career as comic actor, culminating with the lead role in the record-breaking original production of Charley's Aunt. Fred Sullivan died in January 1877.
Jacques Offenbach's works were then at the height of their popularity in Britain, but Trial by Jury proved even more popular than La Périchole, becoming an unexpected hit. Trial by Jury drew crowds and continued to run after La Périchole closed. While the Royalty Theatre closed for the summer in 1875, Dolaro immediately took Trial on tour in England and Ireland. The piece resumed at the Royalty later in 1875 and was revived for additional London seasons in 1876 at the Opera Comique and in 1877 at the Strand Theatre.
Trial by Jury soon became the most desirable supporting piece for any London production, and, outside London, the major British theatrical touring companies had added it to their repertoire by about 1877. The original production was given a world tour by the Opera Comique's assistant manager Emily Soldene, which travelled as far as Australia. Unauthorised "pirate" productions quickly sprang up in America, taking advantage of the fact that American courts did not enforce foreign copyrights. It also became popular as part of the Victorian tradition of "benefit concerts", where the theatrical community came together to raise money for actors and actresses down on their luck or retiring. The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company continued to play the work for a century, licensing the piece to amateur and foreign professional companies, such as the J. C. Williamson Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Company. Since the copyrights to Gilbert and Sullivan works ran out in 1961, the piece has been available to theatre companies around the world free of royalties. The work's enduring popularity since 1875 makes it, according to theatrical scholar Kurt Gänzl, "probably the most successful British one-act operetta of all time".
The success of Trial by Jury spurred several attempts to reunite Gilbert and Sullivan, but difficulties arose. Plans for a collaboration for Carl Rosa in 1875 fell through because Gilbert was too busy with other projects, and an attempted Christmas 1875 revival of Thespis by Richard D'Oyly Carte failed when the financiers backed out. Gilbert and Sullivan continued their separate careers, though both continued writing light opera, among other projects: Sullivan's next light opera, The Zoo, opened while Trial by Jury was still playing, in June 1875; and Gilbert's Eyes and No Eyes premiered a month later, followed by Princess Toto in 1876. Gilbert and Sullivan were not reunited until The Sorcerer in 1877.

1. "Hark, the hour of ten is sounding" (Chorus) and "Now, Jurymen, hear my advice" (Usher)
1a. "Is this the Court of the Exchequer?" (Defendant)
2. "When first my old, old love I knew" (Defendant and Chorus) and "Silence in Court!" (Usher)
3. "All hail great Judge!" (Chorus and Judge)
4. "When I, good friends, was call'd to the Bar" (Judge and Chorus)
5. "Swear thou the Jury" (Counsel, Usher) and "Oh will you swear by yonder skies" (Usher and Chorus)
6. "Where is the Plaintiff?" (Counsel, Usher) and "Comes the broken flower" (Chorus of Bridesmaids and Plaintiff)[42]
7. "Oh, never, never, never, since I joined the human race" (Judge, Foreman, Chorus)
8. "May it please you, my lud!" (Counsel for Plaintiff and Chorus)
9. "That she is reeling is plain to see!" (Judge, Foreman, Plaintiff, Counsel, and Chorus)
10. "Oh, gentlemen, listen, I pray" (Defendant and Chorus of Bridesmaids)
11. "That seems a reasonable proposition" (Judge, Counsel, and Chorus)
12. "A nice dilemma we have here" (Ensemble)
13. "I love him, I love him, with fervour unceasing" (Plaintiff, Defendant and Chorus) and "The question, gentlemen, is one of liquor" (Judge and Ensemble)
14. "Oh, joy unbounded, with wealth surrounded" (Ensemble)

The Learned Judge (comic baritone)
The Plaintiff (soprano)
The Defendant (tenor)
Counsel for the Plaintiff (lyric baritone)
Usher (bass-baritone)
Foreman of the Jury (bass)
Associate (silent)
First Bridesmaid
Chorus of Bridesmaids, Gentlemen of the Jury, Barristers, Attorneys and Public.

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