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Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon
A musical legend written by Sydney Grundy
Composed by Arthur Sullivan
A Light Opera in Three Acts
First produced at the Savoy Theatre, London on 24th September 1892
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1898 — Leicester Amateur Operatic Society
1900 — Maidstone Operatic Society
1901 — Bristol Amateur Operatic Society
1904 — York Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society
1905 — Torquay Operatic Society
1907 — Mr Jackson’s Choir (Aberdeen)
1908 — Orpheus Club (Glasgow)
1908 — Peterborough Operatic and Dramatic Society
1908 — Southsea
1909 — Leicester Amateur Music and Dramatic Society
1909 — Leicester Amateur Operatic Society
1909 — Metropolitan Academy of Music (Ilford)
1910 — Lytham Amateur Operatic Society
1911 — Paignton Operatic and Dramatic Society
1912 — Exeter Amateur Operatic Society
1912 — Nottingham Operatic Society
1914 — Keighley Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society
1916 — Sheffield Teachers’ Opera Society
1917 — Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society
1918 — Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society
1921 — Chesterfield Operatic Society
1921 — Doncaster Amateur Operatic Society
1922 — Leeds Amateur Operatic Society
1922 — Nottingham Operatic Society
1924 — Barclays Bank Operatic Society
1925 — Orpheus Club (Glasgow)
1927 — Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society
1928 — Bristol Amateur Operatic Society
1928 — Cambridge Operatic Society
1931 — Exeter Amateur Operatic Society
1938 — Wimbledon Light Opera Society
1950 — Exeter Amateur Operatic Society
1963 — Geoids Amateur Operatic Society
1979 — Victorian Light Opera Company, Maryland
1981 — Parish of Cheam Operatic Society
1992 — Generally G & S, Retford
1992 — Hessle
1992 — Haltemprice G & S Society
1992 — Reading University
2001 — Generally G & S, Retford
2001 — Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria, Australia
2012 — Valley Light Opera of Amherst, Massachusetts — Concert Performance
2014 — Matlock Gilbert and Sullivan Society
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The Chappell edition of the vocal score of Haddon Hall:-
Band parts and piano solo for Dan Godfery’s selection from Haddon Hall courtesy of the BBC:-
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Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not represent the views of St David’s Players as a Society.
After the break with Gilbert following the infamous ‘carpet quarrel’ Sullivan continued to compose works for the D’Oyly Carte organisation. Initially this took the form of the Romantic Opera Ivanhoe which opened D’Oyly Carte’s new theatre, The Royal English Opera House, in the January of 1891.
Although Ivanhoe enjoyed an initial run of 155 consecutive performances (still a record for this type of work), when the piece closed Carte had nothing new to replace it and so staged Messager’s La Basoche for a short run before having to admit defeat and sell the theatre.
We know the building today as the Palace Theatre and it stands in Cambridge Circus at the point where Shaftesbury Avenue crosses Charing Cross Road.
In September 1892 however, Sullivan returned to the Savoy with a new ‘Light Opera’, Haddon Hall, composed to a libretto by Sydney Grundy. The new work was to enjoy a respectable run of some 204 performances and would probably have run for longer but for Grundy’s dialogue which was of the nature of the ‘prithee’, ‘hast thou’ mock olde English school that Gilbert had managed so well in Yeomen, but here seemed old fashioned and stilted.
However, Haddon Hall did tour the provinces for a number of years and did become very popular with amateur societies right up until the 1950’s. As with a number of less performed works however, the loss of much performance material in the fire at Chappell’s in 1964 resulted in a decline in performances.
In the early 70’s, Haddon Hall came back into the limelight as a production by the Parish of Cheam Operatic Society resulted in a professional recording issued on the Pearl label. This was followed in 1992 by a centenary production at Reading University, a recording of which was issued on cassette, and at least two productions during the 80’s and 90’s by Generally G & S at Retford. There have also been performances at Buxton and at Haddon Hall itself. Sadly none of these have appeared on CD.
In 2000, the Prince Consort and the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society, sponsored by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society, went into the recording studio and committed to disc the best recording so far, not just of Haddon Hall but of the Prince Consort series.
In the past I have complained of mis-castings and a lack of pace with Prince Consort performances. Here both those criticisms have been addressed and we have a really enjoyable account of a highly accomplished Sullivan score.
Whilst the piece does not have the lightness of Gondoliers, it is well constructed, tuneful, heavier than one has come to expect from Sullivan but then, although this is not ‘Grand’ opera, neither is it ‘Comic’ opera as such. It is described as ‘Light’ and deals with historical fact, albeit the story of the elopement of Dorothy Vernon with John Manners is moved forward 100 years so that a chorus of comic puritans can be introduced. What Sullivan does seem to have caught very well is a musical ‘feel’ that just seems to be redolent of the area of Derbyshire in which Haddon Hall is situated.
The short second act in particular is a fine piece of writing.
Divided into two scenes the first takes place in the gardens where the puritans are sheltering from a storm. Sullivan catches the stormy atmosphere exceptionally well here. But it is the next number that is particularly remarkable. The arrival of the McCrankie, a fanatical puritan from the Isle of Mull. Sullivan’s orchestrations turn the entire orchestra into one massive bagpipe with hilarious effect - even down to the exhalation of the air from the bag at the end. A further duet and trio and we are into an extended finale which begins with the elopement of the lovers in the midst of a terrific storm, (Sullivan rivals Rossini here), then the action moves into the great hall where a reception is interrupted by the puritans with the news of the elopement. As Dorothy’s father and friends rush off in pursuit a magnificent chorus of servants brings the curtain down.
This recording, complete without dialogue, is available on the Divine Art label - 21201 - and is well worth seeking out. It should be generally available in the shops and from Amazon. At the time of writing, Divine Art are offering the set at half price if purchased direct from them.