Coleridge-Taylor: Thelma

Article excerpt

Ashcroft Theatre,Croydon

Famous in his time, the Afro-English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912) lived and worked in Croydon for his entire life. His Hiawatha's Wedding Feast had colossal sales and regular spectacular performances under Sargent; he'd sold it outright for 15 guineas and died at 37 in poverty. That led to the aeation of the Performing Rights Society. Coleridge-Taylor's home town is doing the centenary of his early death proud, inaugurating a wide-ranging revival festival of his music with his opera, Thelma, rejected in 1909 and long thought lost, but rediscovered in the British Library in immaculate full orchestral score prepared by the composer for the DOyIy Carte Company, which turned it down, since when it languished unheard, until this first-ever production by Surrey Opera at the Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon on February 10, designed by Bridget Kimak and directed by Christopher Cowell. The conductor was Jonathan Butcher.

It has been readied for performance by Stephen Anthony Brown, who made necessary alterations to the libretto for this production, complete with all the music (which may need a little pruning of the lengthy middle Act for the future).

Thelma, "a saga of deceit, magic, retribution and the triumph of love over wickedness" made for an interesting long evening with many incidental pleasures along the way. …