In 1854, at 12, Sullivan became a choirboy at the Chapel Royal. According to Leslie Ayre, Arthur Sullivan's older brother Frederic sometimes accompanied him to the Chapel Royal and "amuse[d] the boys with comic songs" (397).
At 14, Sullivan was the first person to win the Mendelssohn Scholarship at the Royal Academy of Music in London, which enabled him to study in Liepzig.
In 1861, he became the organist at St. Michael's.
In 1862, his incidental music to a production of The Tempest was performed to acclaim at the Crystal Palace.
In 1871, while he was still younger than 30, he composed the setting for "Onward Christian Soldiers," a hymn still sung in Protestant Christian churches today.
Arthur Sullivan's brother Frederic, according to Leslie Ayre, "was the original Apollo in Thespis and, as a member of the Dolaro company, was in the cast of La Perichole at the Royalty Theatre when it was decided to add Trial by Jury to the bill. This gave Fred his great chance. He was a good musician as well as a lively actor and his creation of the role of the Judge was the big hit of the show. Indeed, Gilbert said afterwards that the success of the piece was due in no small measure to Fred Sullivan's 'admirable performance'. The role of John Wellington Wells in the next opera, The Sorcerer, was specifically written with Fred in mind but he did not live to play it" (397).
In 1878, Sullivan composed the music for the hugely popular song "The Lost Chord." Leslie Ayre describes the importance of this song in Sullivan's life:
Sullivan's portrait, which hangs in the National Portrait Gallery, London, was painted by Millais in 1888.
The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive has a 12K portrait of Sullivan (http://diamond.idbsu.edu/gas/gallery/sullivan.html). It also has a portrait of a youngish Sullivan with Phillip Dillard (http://diamond.idbsu.edu/GaS/gallery/sullivan_dillard.html).
Gilbert and Sullivan's Style of Composition
Sullivan wrote the rhythms of the music, using dashes and dots.
Sullivan composed the tunes.
Sullivan orchestrated the score once the performers were cast and their particular voices were known. Sullivan did not always compose the overtures; the Overture of The Mikado, for example, was composed by one Hamilton Clarke.
Gilbert directed and staged the operas, with Richard D'Oyly Carte producing.
Sullivan conducted, though he had many prestigious obligations during the 1880s, and so probably there were others who conducted as well.
Sullivan died on 22 November 1900.
To Act I or Act II of Gilbert and Sullivan's The Mikado.
To the homepage of this Mikado website.
This URL: http://web.stcloudstate.edu/scogdill/mikado/sullivan.html.
Last update: 16 May 1998.