Friday, February 3, 2012 “‘Thelma’, Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s only full-length opera, performed at last”

Published on 02 Feb 2012 

Jonathan Butcher writes: 
Up until 1900 Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (born in 1875) had had little to do with composing for the theatre. His main body of work was choral and orchestral and, of course, his most famous opus, and the one that catapulted him to fame more or less overnight, was his major oratorio, Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast, to words by Longfellow, a poem that Coleridge-Taylor had long admired. Sadly, although this was performed all over the world and for two weeks every summer for a good many years at the Royal Albert Hall (with its companion pieces The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha’s Departure), he made little or no money out of the work, because he sold it outright to Novello & Co. Ltd. – something he was to regret bitterly.

The great and revered actor/manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree engaged SC-T to write incidental music for one of his productions in 1900 – Herod, a play by Stephen Phillips. This happy association was to continue until SC-T’s untimely death in 1912 at the age of 37. His involvement with the theatre, with all its colourful characters, magic and intrigue, may well have been the very spark Coleridge-Taylor needed to spur him on to write his only full length opera, as, between 1907 and 1909, he was actively engaged in composing what we now believe he would have called, Thelma.”

A more extended version of this article was first published in Opera magazine, January 2012.  The opera Thelma will be performed on 9, 10 & 11 February 2012 in the Ashcroft Theatre of Fairfield Halls, Croydon, conducted by Jonathan Butcher.
[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor(1875-1912) is featured at Major observances of the Centennial of his death are underway and are the work of organizations including the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor Foundation,, which has just been entrusted with an extensive Bibliography compiled by Prof. Dominique-René de Lerma, and made available at the website of the Foundation.]

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