Operetta: A Theatrical History

By Richard Traubner | Go to book overview

THE EDWARDESIAN ERA

IF THE Opera Comique and the Savoy dominated London musicaltheatre activity in the 1870s and '80s, their position was later weakened with the ascendancy of Daly's and the Gaiety in the "naughty nineties." The "sacred lamp of burlesque" had been kept aglow at the Gaiety by John Hollingshead; Daly's had been built by the American Augustin Daly as a showcase for the Shakespearian actress Ada Rehan. Both theatres would eventually come under the control of impresario George Edwardes, one for the new "musical comedy, " the other for more romantic operettas. King Edward VII was still the dashing Prince of Wales in the last two decades of Victoria's century, but the types of musical shows favored during his forthcoming reign were already being created during the Edwardesian era.

After The Gondoliers and, more urgently, after The Grand Duke, it was realized that the Savoy stream of perfection may have run dry. Thus, the 1890s and the Edwardian age, as far as British operetta was concerned, were spent trying to live up to Gilbert and Sullivan. The critics and the public were more lenient toward the succeeding composers, often overpraising them, while nearly everyone waited in vain for the new Gilbert, who did not really materialize until Noël Coward, in the 1920s. Proficient lyricists, like Adrian Ross, and capable book-writers, like Frederick Lonsdale, wrote excellent material. But there were no creators, in the sense that Gilbert created his own world, peopled with memorable characters, interesting stories, witty dialogue, and his thoroughly matchless lyrics.

Several composers were touted at the time as being the successors to Sullivan. One was Edward Solomon (1855-1895), born in London, the son of a musichall pianist. A versatile and proficient pianist himself, he was also an accomplished orchestrator, and his work was respected by Arthur Sullivan. He wrote

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