The Gondoliers

The Mikado

The Sorcerer

The Martyr of Antioch


The Yeomen of the Guard

Other works performed by St Davids Players

St Davids Players
past productions

HMS Pinafore

The Pirates of Penzance

Trial by Jury


Princess Ida

Utopia (Limited)

The Grand Duke



Return to THE ROSE OF PERSIA main page

Website © St David’s Players 2019

Designed by halo-creative.co.uk

Website terms and conditions of use and privacy policy

THE ROSE OF PERSIA further reading




Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon

Written by Basil Hood

Composed by Arthur Sullivan


    The rich and eccentric merchant, Abu-El-Hassan, enjoys entertaining beggars, dancing girls and riff-raff at nightly parties in his magnificent palace, where a story-teller, Yussuf, entertains Hassan’s twenty-five wives and his guests with romantic tales. The Sultan, curious to meet the type of people whose company Hassan seems to prefer, sends the sly and corrupt priest Abdallah to the palace to collect a few.

    What the Sultan does not know is that his Sultana, Rose-In-Bloom, taking advantage of his recent absence on a hunting trip, has disguised herself and her three favourite slaves, Heart’s Desire, Scent-of-Lilies and Honey-of-Life, as dancing girls. Cut off from the royal palace by the Sultan’s early return, they have sought refuge with Hassan. Heart’s Desire has instantly fallen in love with Yussuf and when Abdallah and the royal bodyguards arrive, it is she who saves the Sultana from detection by means of the royal signet ring. Abdallah leaves empty handed, threatening to reveal the Sultana’s presence in Hassan’s palace to the Sultan the next morning.

    Hassan, apprehensive of trouble in store and certain of being beheaded, doses himself with a potent drug called ‘bhang’ and soon lapses into a state of unconcerned euphoria.

    The Sultan himself arrives accompanied by his Vizier, his Physician and his Executioner, all disguised as whirling dervishes. Hassan is by now considering himself to be a person of more and more importance and eventually declares himself to be the Sultan and rushes away to fetch the Sultana.

    Hassan’s terrified wives, led by Blush-of-Morning and the formidable Dancing Sunbeam are completely amazed when the Sultan’s royal guard enter the courtyard. Hassan parades the heavily veiled Rose-in-Bloom before the company and commands her to unveil. Rose refuses and Hassan orders her execution, but before he can give the signal, he passes out. As Rose, her slaves and Yussuf make a stealthy exit, the Sultan orders that Hassan be carried to the royal palace.

    The following morning in the audience chamber of the royal palace the Sultan requires his entire court, under pain of death, to convince Hassan when he wakes that he is Sultan. The ruse is so effective that a confused Yussuf, during audience with the ‘Sultan’, eventually denies that he is requesting Heart’s Desire as his wife. It is the arrival of Abdallah whose insistence that he saw Rose at Hassan’s house on the previous evening provokes the Sultan’s wrath. Hassan is to die, and Rose shall be married to the Story-teller who doesn’t know who he wants to marry.

    A further series of mistaken identities leads to Dancing Sunbeam being divorced from Hassan and married to Yussuf.

    However, there is one last hope – if Heart’s Desire can convince the Sultan that it was she that who visited Hassan’s house, for the purposes of hearing fairy stories that she can then relay to the Sultana, all may be well. The Sultan commands that any such tale must have a happy ending and the scene is set for a truly Gilbertian twist!!


    ACT 1

    As we lie in languor lazy

    Chorus of Girls with Solo, Hassan

    When Islam first arose

    Abdallah, Chorus of Girls

    Oh life has put into my hand

    Dancing Sunbeam

    If a sudden stroke of fate

    Blush-of-Morning, Dancing Sunbeam, Abdallah

    If you ask me to advise you

    Rose-in-Bloom, Scent-of-Lilies, Heart’s Desire

    ’Neath my lattice


    Tramps and scamps


    When my father sent me to Ispahan

    Hassan, Chorus

    I care not if the cup I hold

    Yussuf, Chorus

    Musical maidens are we

    Rose-in-Bloom, Scent-of-Lilies, Heart’s Desire,
    Honey-of-Life,  Hassan, Chorus

    We have come to invade

    Abdallah, Hassan

    The Sultan’s executioner

    Hassan, Dancing Sunbeam, Rose-in-Bloom,
    Heart’s Desire, Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life,
    Yussuf, Abdallah

    I’m the Sultan’s vigilant Vizier

    Grand Vizier, Physician-in-Chief, Executioner, Sultan

    Finale (Oh, luckless hour!)


    ACT 2

    Oh, what is love?

    Heart’s Desire, Yussuf

    If you or I should tell the truth

    Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life, Heart’s Desire, Yussuf

    From morning prayer

    Grand Vizier, Physician-in-Chief, Executioner, Chorus

    Let a satirist enumerate a catalogue of crimes

    Sultan, Chorus

    In the heart of my hearts I’ve always known

    Dancing Sunbeam, Blush-of-Morning,  Honey-of-Life

    Song-of-Nightingales, Sultan, Grand Vizier, Physician-in-Chief

    Suppose - I say, suppose

    Rose-in-Bloom, Sultan

    Laughing low, on toe-tip

    Hassan, Grand Vizier, Physician-in-Chief, Executioner, Chorus

    It’s a busy, busy, busy, busy day for thee

    Scent-of-Lilies, Executioner, Yussuf,
    Heart’s Desire, Hassan, Chorus

    Our tale is told

     Yussuf (with Heart’s Desire)

    What does it mean?

    Dancing Sunbeam, Blush-of-Morning

    Yussuf, Soldier of the Royal Guard

    Let her live a little longer

    Rose-in-Bloom & Scent-of-Lilies (with Honey-of-Life)

    Heart’s Desire, Physician, Sultan, Hassan, Executioner

    It has reached me a lady named Hubbard

    Dancing Sunbeam, Scent-of-Lilies, Honey-of-Life

    Heart’s Desire, Yussuf, Hassan, Abdallah

    Hassan, the Sultan with his court approaches

    Grand Vizier, Physician-in-Chief

    Executioner, Sultan, Hassan, Chorus

    There once was a small street Arab

    Hassan, Chorus

    Finale (A bridal march)


    The Sultan Mahmoud of Persia (lyric baritone)

    Hassan (a philanthropist) (comic baritone)

    Yussuf (a professional story-teller) (tenor)

    Abdallah (a priest) (bass-baritone)

    The Grand Vizier (baritone)

    The Physician-in-Chief (tenor)

    The Royal Executioner (baritone)

    Soldier of the Guard (bass)

    The Sultana Zubeydeh (named "Rose-in-Bloom") (coloratura soprano)


    The Sultana’s favourite slaves:

    • Scent-of-Lilies (soprano)
    • Heart’s Desire (mezzo-soprano)
    • Honey-of-Life (soprano)
    • Dancing Sunbeam (Hassan’s first wife) (contralto)
    • Blush-of-Morning (his twenty-fifth wife) (soprano)


    Wives of Hassan:

    • Oasis-in-the-Desert
    • Moon-Upon-the-Waters
    • Song-of-Nightingales
    • Whisper-of-the-West-Wind


    Chorus (Act I) — Hassan’s Wives, Mendicants, and Sultan’s Guards

    Chorus (Act II) — Royal Slave Girls, Palace Officials, and Guards


    To tell us about a production, past, present or to come, or to advise us of a society website we have missed, please click HERE

    1902  —  Bristol Amateur Operatic Society

    1903  —  Southern Light Opera Company

    1906  —  Taunton Amateur Operatic Society

    1908  —  Lancaster Amateur
    Dramatic and Operatic Society

    1909  —  Southern Light Opera Company

    1910  —  Leeds Amateur Operatic Society

    1910  —  Orpheus Club (Glasgow)

    1912  —  Torquay Operatic Society

    1914  —  Cambridge Operatic Society

    1921  —  Exeter Amateur Operatic Society

    1921  —  Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society

    1924  —  Bridlington Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1924  —  Doncaster Amateur Operatic Society

    1924  —  Heswall Operatic Society

    1925  —  Brixham Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1925  —  Bury St Edmunds Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1925  —  Neath Amateur Operatic Society

    1926  —  Southampton Operatic Society

    1927  —  South Shields Amateur Operatic Society

    1927  —  Barclays Bank Operatic Society

    1928  —  Coventry Musical Theatre Society

    1928  —  Exmouth Amateur Operatic Society

    1928  —  Lincoln Amateur Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1928  —  Penarth Operatic & Dramatic Society

    1928  —  Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society

    1929  —  Stourbridge Amateur Operatic Society

    1930  —  Bath Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1930  —  Dundee Operatic Society

    1930  —  Kidderminster Operatic and Dramatic Society

    1930  —  Melton Mowbray Amateur Operatic Society

    1930  —  Redruth Amateur Operatic Society

    1930  —  Stratford Operatic Society

    1931  —  Harrogate Operatic Players

    1931  —  Yeovil Operatic Society

    1933  —  Barnes and Richmond Operatic Society

    1933  —  Clacton Amateur Operatic Society

    1934  —  Banstead and Nork Amateur Operatic Society

    1934  —  Lewes Operatic Society

    1935  —  London  —  Professional

    1937  —  Ponteland Repertory Society

    1938  —  Wimbledon Light Opera Society

    1940  —  Sydney Gilbert and Sullivan Society

    1951  —  Gosforth Operatic Society

    1953  —  Ayrshire Philharmonic Opera Society

    1954  —  Kings Langley Light Opera Company

    1954  —  Risley Musical Theatre Company

    1957  —  South Moor Musical Theatre Group

    1959  —  West Wickham Operatic Society

    1963  —  St Alban’s Operatic Society

    1966  —  Geoids Amateur Operatic Society

    1977  —  Kingsbury Amateur Operatic Society

    1980  —  Cotswold Savoyards

    1990  — St David’s Players, Exeter

    1999  —  Gilbert and Sullivan Opera Victoria, Australia

    1999  —  Leighton Musical Theatre Company

    2003  —  Lyric Theatre of San Jose  —  Discovery Series

    2003  —  Savoy Singers, Camberley

    2004  —  Valley Light Opera (Massachusetts)  —  Concert with Orchestra

    2005  —  Northampton Gilbert and Sullivan Group  —  Costumed Concert

    2007  —  New York G & S Players  —  Professional

    2008  —  Buxton

    2008  —  Lyric Theatre of San Jose

    2009  —  St David’s Players, Exeter

    2014  —  Thespis, etc., Media, PA, USA  —  Semi-Staged Concert with Orchestra


    At the time of his death in November 1900 (just 12 months after the première of The Rose of Persia), the score of his next opera, The Emerald Isle, again with librettist Basil Hood, lay incomplete on his desk. The piece would later be completed by Edward German who would go on to write Merrie England and A Princess Of Kensington, both with Hood, and both for the
    Savoy Theatre.

    Popular from the time of its first performance in November 1899, The Rose of Persia continued to tour the provinces well into the new century, and even reached as far as Cape Town during the D’Oyly Carte tour of South Africa during 1902/3. There was also a professional West End revival in 1935 in repertoire with Merrie England.

    The plot derives from a combination of several stories from the collection of fairy stories known in the West as the ‘Arabian Nights Tales’ or as ‘The Tales of 1001 Nights’; the same source as Aladdin, Sinbad, Ali Baba and Kismet.

    In the case of The Rose of Persia the main source is the tale The Sleeper Awakes and within this the tale of The Larrikin and the Cook.

    The Rose of Persia maintained a regular place in the repertoire of amateur operatic societies throughout the English speaking world up until the outbreak of the second world war, at which time many of our societies were mothballed for the duration, recommencing their performances in late 1945, early 1946. At this time The Rose of Persia still featured, most notably in a production at St. Albans in 1963 which was recorded and later found its way onto LP in the early 1970’s.

    However, a disastrous fire at the warehouse of the publishing firm Chappell & Co in 1964 resulted in the loss of almost all the performance material for The Rose of Persia and a large number of other infrequently performed Victorian and Edwardian shows.

    The advent of the internet has made the dissemination of performance material for these neglected shows so much easier. However, at the time of the St David’s revival of 1990,

    this was not the case. It was sheer determination and dedication by the company that resulted in what was described by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society as ‘a benchmark production by which all future productions will be judged’.

    Since the St David’s production of 1990, there has been an upsurge in performances, including the 1999 professional recording (for which St David’s provided the vocal material) and culminating in the professional revival in New York in 2008.

    St David’s Players may well be unique by reason of the fact that they are probably the only UK based society to have presented The Rose of Persia twice since the second world war. Neither Exeter Musical Society (formerly Exeter Amateur Operatic Society) nor Exmouth Musical Theatre Company (formerly Exmouth Operatic) have staged the opera since World War Two, Exeter having produced it only once in 1921, and Exmouth, again only once, in 1928.

    In Somerset, Yeovil presented the opera in 1931.

    The Rose of Persia was very much a cross-over show from the world of Comic Opera to the new world of the Musical Comedy, and this is very much reflected in the amount of incidental dance that is included in the show – far more than had been the norm in a Gilbert and Sullivan show.

    A first for this production will be the inclusion of the couplets, ‘Let her live a little longer’ in the second act. The donation to the Oriel College, Oxford, of Sullivan’s autographed manuscript, and the access granted to members of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society led to the discovery of this hitherto unknown couplet/octet.

    A premiere performance took place at the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society festival in Portsmouth in 2006, but the inclusion of this number in the St David’s production will constitute the first known inclusion of this piece in context.


    Most computers, tablets and phones can already read PDF files. If you are unable to view these files, download the FREE Acrobat Reader from Adobe

    FREE downloads are available for these publications

    Please Note: St David’s Players are not responsible for the content or availability of content on external websites

      For the annotated libretto of The Rose of Persia


      Email for more information about the combined vocal score and libretto of The Rose of Persia, newly typeset, courtesy of Lyric Theater of San Jose, CA


    Original Chappell vocal score of The Rose of Persia,
    divided into five files.


      Part One


      Part Two


      Part Three


      Part Four


      Part Five


      Costume designs for the 2009 St David’s Players’ production of The Rose of Persia. © These designs are copyright © 2009 - Alma Harding.  Permission to use these designs must be sought.


      Express & Echo Article 09/10/2009



    Audio or video media is available
    for this item (subject to compatibility with your chosen media player software installed)

    Please Note: St David’s Players are not responsible for the content or availability of content on external websites

    Reviews currently included here have been posted by contributor, Ian Bond, and are his personal views, and these may not necessarily represent the views of St David’s Players

    The Rose of Persia has always been the most unjustly neglected of all the comic operas written by Sullivan without Gilbert. First produced in 1899 the piece gave every indication that the flagging fortunes of both composer and The Savoy Theatre were at last on an upturn. An initial run of some 213 performances and extensive touring (including a tour of South Africa in 1903) kept the opera in the public’s eye. Regular amateur performances right up until the outbreak of the 2nd World War in 1939 and a professional revival at the Prince’s Theatre in London in 1935 in repertoire with Hood and German’s Merrie England (another Savoy Opera) ensured the enduring popularity of the opera.

    The conclusion of World War 2 bought a complete change to the British and European theatrical scene. The invasion of Rogers and Hammerstein and other American imports became the popular box office of the day. A disastrous fire in the music hire section at the publishing house of Chappell in 1964 meant the loss of the printing plates and performance material for many less popular show. Fortunately in the case of Rose of Persia there were so many vocal scores and libretti in private and library possession that when the public did eventually turn back to this and a number of other Sullivan works, it was possible to create that lost performance material.

    There were of course a number of productions of the work after World War 2 but they were few and far between. However, one such production at St Albans in 1963, was recorded by an amateur tape recorder enthusiast and for some years copies circulated privately until the origin of the tape was virtually forgotten. In the early 1970’s the tape came to the attention of the small, private Rare Recorded Editions record label and the recording was issued on two LPs and credited to an entirely fictitious operatic society. Many years later the true identity of the society came to light. Despite the obvious flaws in the recording process (including a number of audible edits), the recording is a delightful souvenir of
    a live production by a competent amateur society. The whole is well paced, lively and highly enjoyable and a large audience very obviously enjoys every moment of the performance. The dialogue is performed complete, but even so is totally acceptable. From the long score only the
    ‘Mother Hubbard’ number from the end of Act Two is omitted.

    Of the performers, Peter Jenkyns is a delightful Hassan, Robert Ladkin a clear-voiced Yussuf and Veral Shelford a formidable, no nonsense Dancing Sunbeam.

    As yet no one has seen fit to reissue this recording on CD - a great pity for although it cannot match the technical quality of the Pearl recording or the utter professionalism of the BBC/CPO recording, this is a rare document to be treasured. If you find it in a second-hand shop - grab it!

    Rare Recorded Editions SRRE 152/3

    The problems that manifest themselves in virtually all of the Prince Consort recordings for Pearl throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s are sadly all too apparent in this issue of The Rose of Persia. Miscasting is one of the two main issues. Richard Bourjo has a magnificent Bass-Baritone voice which is a delight to listen to, but when he is cast in the patter-baritone roles it has two effects - firstly it darkens the tone of all numbers in which he is involved - secondly it robs the role of that lightness of touch that is so necessary for these characters.

    The second reason is one of pace. That David Lyle is perfectly capable of drawing a sparkling, well paced performance from these forces is born out by the recording of The Chieftain emanating from a stage production in 1986 and recorded by Pearl but not issued. (This recording was later issued by Sounds-On-CD). But here, as in the earlier recordings of Emerald Isle (1982) and Beauty Stone (1984) the pace is slow and lack lustre.

    All this is not to say that there are not enjoyable moments, most especially in Act Two where things do seem to gather momentum somewhat. Scott Cooper as the Sultan, Alan Borthwick as Yussuf, Mary Timmons as Rose and Christine Watson as Dancing Sunbeam all make valuable and enjoyable contributions. The chorus of the Edinburgh Gilbert and Sullivan Society are excellent as is the playing of the Prince Consort Orchestra. The digital re-mastering is up to Pearl’s usual standard.

    For this reissue Rose is coupled in a three disc set with the Emerald Isle by the same forces. Pearl GEMS 0189.

    To mark the centenary of Sullivan’s death the BBC commissioned a recording of Rose of Persia  for issue with the BBC Music Magazine May 1999 issue (some 18 months before the event it was due to commemorate). The recording was made by the Hanover Band with the Southwark Voices and a line up of top British opera singers all under the baton of Tom Higgins. Following the St David’s players production of 1990 the vocal scores created for that production had been loaned to a number of other companies for some half-dozen productions that had followed the high profile
    St David’s revival, and these scores were now used for this recording. The finance for the recording was raised almost entirely by donations from members of the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society,
    and the result was the first fully professional recording of any of Sullivan’s non-Gilbert operas, (apart from
    Cox and Box and The Zoo).

    The recording was duly issued as a 2 CD set (BBC MM 81) free with the magazine, the second disc being filled out by the inclusion of 6 overtures (Di Ballo, Pinafore, Pirates, Mikado, Yeomen and Macbeth). In the United States a single disc of highlights was issued.

    After much wrangling and approaches to several record companies, the recording eventually achieved a commercial issue in 2005 on the CPO label. This time the set included a complete libretto of the vocal numbers and extensive essays in German, English and French.

    The cast is headed by New D’Oyly Carte patter baritone Richard Suart as Hassan who is utterly suited to the role and brings out all the comic potential. Sally Harrison is superb as Rose making the most of ‘Neath my Lattice’ and blending beautifully with Alison Roddy (Heart’s Desire) and Marilyn Hill Smith (Scent of Lillies) in their many atmospheric close harmony moments. Ivan Sharpe is a bright toned Yussuf, Jonathan Veira suitably dark and sinister as the scheming Abdallah and Richard Morrison a charming and noble Sultan. Marcia Bellamy may be a little lightweight as the formidable Dancing Sunbeam but, nevertheless, she turns in an excellent performance. The chorus may be placed a little far back at times but overall this is an excellent account of this neglected masterpiece and one that should be snapped up whilst it is still in the catalogue.

    cpo 777 074-2.

    Rose-in-Bloom’s ‘Neath my lattice’

      Yussuf’s ‘I care not if the cup I hold’ Act Two Finale