13 May 1842 - 22 November 1900 (age 58)

Best known now for his comic operas and as the composer in the Gilbert and Sullivan partnership.
In his time he was also well known for his serious music. The Lost Chord and the hymn Onward Christian Soldiers are two of his better known works.






portrait of Sir Arthur Sullivan


Born: Arthur Seymour Sullivan, 13 May 1842,
Father: Thomas Sullivan, Irish born army bandsman, clarinet and music teacher.
Mother: Mary Clementina (born Coghlan) Irish/Italian origin
Siblings: elder brother Fred
Partner: Never married but numerous affairs, especially with the American Mrs.Mary Frances (Fanny) Ronalds
Children: None
Died: 22 November 1900, London, aged 58.
Cause of death: Bronchitis and heart failure
Grave: St Paul's Cathedral, London. see findagrave

Gilbert and Sullivan

The works of the partnership of the librettist W.S.Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan are far better known than their other work. Together they collaborated on 14 operettas between 1871 and 1898.
Their success is in large part due to the impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte who together with Gilbert and Sullivan formed the D'Oyly Carte Company after the tremendous success of HMS Pinafore. They produced together all the successive operas.

In 1881 Carte built the Savoy Theatre which became the permanent home of their partnership.


14 Operettas with W.S.Gilbert including:
- Trial by Jury
- HMS Pinafore
- The Pirates of Penzance
- Patience
- Iolanthe
- Princess Ida
- The Mikado
- Ruddigore
- The Yeomen of the Guard
- The Gondoliers
many works including
- Symphony in E
- Concerto for Cello and Orchestra
- Imperial March
- L'Île Enchantée
- Victoria and Merrie England Choral
- Festival Te Deum
- The Martyr of Antioch
- The Golden Legend
- The Lost Chord
- Onward Christian Soldiers (hymn)


Early years: His father was a army bandmaster and Arthur learned to play all the band instruments by the time he was eight.
Age 12: Accepted as a chorister in the Chapel Royal.
Age 13: Novello published song 'O Israel'.
Age 14: Won the Mendelssohn scholarship enabling him to study at the Royal Academy of Music.
Age 16: Studied at the Leipzig Conservatory, one of the best music schools. Composed 'The Tempest', based on a Shakespeare play, for his finals.
Age 19: Returned to London. Employed as a church organist and gave music lessons. His 'Tempest' was performed to great acclaim.
Age 22: Became the organist at Covent Garden.
Age 29: (1871) W.S.Gilbert and Sullivan's first co-operation with a Christmas musical entertainment 'Thespis' for the Gaiety Theatre, London.
Age 33: The impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte hired Gilbert and Sullivan to write a short opera. 'Trial by Jury' was the result and was a great success. D'Oyly Carte then contracted them to write more operettas for him. They produced about one per year until 1889.
During this period Sullivan carried on composing and working in the field of classical music including the Leeds Music Festival.
Age 34: Appointed principal of the school that was to become the Royal College of Music, a post he held for five years.
Age 41: Knighted.
Age 48 (1890): Big bust up. Gilbert sued Sullivan and Carte, thus ending their partnership.
Age 49: Opening of D'Oyly Carte's Royal English Opera House with an opera 'Ivanhoe' by Sullivan based on Sir Walter Scott's novel.
Age 55: His ballet Victoria and Merrie England opened to celebrate Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. Successful 6-month run.
Age 58: Died in London.

Cello Concerto (part 1)
soloist: Julian Lloyd Webber

For He is an English Man - HMS Pinafore

Three Little Maids from School are We - The Mikado

Topsy Turvy - a film by Mike Leigh

The film is mostly the story of a theater production of the Mikado, one of Gilbert and Sullivan's most famous operas. Director Mike Leigh, notorious for writing on the go, has structured a play within a play to a great delight. Jim Broadbent and Allan Corduner are brilliant as Gilbert and Sullivan, and Tim Spall has a wonderful turn as one of the actors, Mr. Temple. 
Filled with humor and grace, Topsy Turvy is one of the best films about acting and a beautiful embrace of all things theatrical.
(from an IMDb user review)

I've Got a Little List - The Mikado

Pirates of Penzance - A Policeman's Lot is Not a Happy One

I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General
(Pirates of Penzance)


- One day work is hard, and another day it is easy; but if I had waited for inspiration I am afraid I should have done nothing. The miner does not sit at the top of the shaft waiting for the coal to come bubbling up to the surface. One must go deep down, and work out every vein carefully.

- Dear Mr. Edison,
If my friend Edmund Yates has been a little incoherent it is in consequence of the excellent dinner and good wines that he has drunk. Therefore I think you will excuse him. He has his lucid intervals. For myself, I can only say that I am astonished and somewhat terrified at the result of this evening's experiments: astonished at the wonderful power you have developed, and terrified at the thought that so much hideous and bad music may be put on record for ever. But all the same I think it is the most wonderful thing that I have ever experienced, and I congratulate you with all my heart on this wonderful discovery. Arthur Sullivan.

- After all each of us has only eight notes to work upon.

Links - where to go for more information

The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive An excellent resource

Sir Arthur Sullivan Society includes a biography

a biography

The Gilbert and Sullivan Story

Answers.com a compilation of reference sites including Wikipedia

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