Unperformed Opera (1864)
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THE SAPPHIRE NECKLACE
or, The False Heiress
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ST DAVID’S PLAYERS
Gilbert and Sullivan Society · Exeter · Devon
Written by H F Chorley
Composed by Arthur Sullivan
New version including Sullivan’s extent music, libretto by Scott Farrell (2000)
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2000 — Royal English Opera Company
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That the autograph manuscript of The Sapphire Necklace existed as late as the summer of 1880 is evidenced by the fact that Sullivan bought the manuscript score and performance rights back from the publisher Metzler having previously sold them to that firm in 1868. What happened after that is not known, although it is quite possible although by no means proven, that Sullivan used some of the music in later works. A letter to his secretary dated 21st January 1897 indicates that he included some of the material in the ballet Victoria And Merrie England, possibly the storm in Scene 4.
Chorley’s libretto has, it seems, not survived, but judging from other work that is available to us such as The Masque At Kenilworth (music by Sullivan), the libretto was probably impossibly weak. As Kenilworth was first performed in September 1864, (and as Sullivan is known to have started composing
The Sapphire Necklace as early as 1862), it has to be wondered
if in fact Kenilworth use music from the Necklace that had been extracted to fulfil a commission from the Birmingham Festival.
Whatever the truth, The Sapphire Necklace remains shrouded in mystery. Only the Overture, an orchestral introduction (Sunset) and two of the numbers (Recitative and Prayer ‘They come not yet’, and the aria ‘Over the roof’) were ever performed, and of these,
the Overture was published in an arrangement for wind band, whilst the vocal score of the soprano aria ‘Over the roof’ and a madrigal ‘When love and beauty’ were printed by Cramer and Novello respectively.
The libretto of identifiable numbers from
The Sapphire Necklace.
This libretto now contains an article by William Parry, reproduced by permission from the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society magazine No: 82, Summer 2013.