Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Opera' Magazine: “Jonathan Butcher tells the story of Coleridge-Taylor's 'lost' opera”

[Samuel Coleridge-Taylor]

SamuelColeridge-Taylor (1875-1912) is featured at The Samuel Taylor-Coleridge Foundation, is deeply involved in the observance of this year's Centennial of the composer's death. Sergio Mims of WHPK-FM in Chicago brings to our attention an article in the February 2012 issue of Opera Magazine on Coleridge-Taylor's only opera, whose title is believed to have been Thelma. It will presented on February 9, 10 and 11 at 7:30 p.m. by Surrey Opera at The Ashcroft Theatre, Croydon. Here are brief excerpts from the article:

Opera Magazine
February 2012

Jonathan Butcher tells the story of Coleridge-Taylor's 'lost' opera
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: his most famous opus – the one that catapaulted him to fame more or less overnight – was his major oratorio, Hiawatha's Wedding Feast, to a poem by Longfellow that Coleridge-Taylor had long admired. Sadly, although this was performed all over the world (for two weeks every summer for a good many years, at the Royal Albert Hall, alongside its companion pieces The Death of Minnehaha and Hiawatha's Departure), he made little or no money out of the work, because he had sold it outright to Novello – something he was bitterly to regret.

“It was the great and revered actor and theatre manager Herbert Beerbohm Tree who engaged Coleridge-Taylor to write incidental music for one of his productions in 1900 – Herod, a play by Stephen Phillips. This happy association was to continue until Coleridge-Taylor's untimely death from pneumonia in 1912 at the age of 37. As he became more and more interested in the theatre, the Croydon-based composer was also to become more and more conscious of his mixed-race heritage.”

“His involvement with the theatre, with all its colourful characters, magic and intrigue, may well have been the spark Coleridge-Taylor needed to spur him on to write his only opera, as between 1907 and 1909 he was actively engaged in composing what we now believe he would have called Thelma. Had he lived longer, he might well have changed the title to The Amulet, an early consideration, but that can only be speculation.”

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