The Sapphire Necklace

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The Sapphire Necklace, or the False Heiress (completed by 1867, and at least mostly completed by 1864),[1] was the first opera composed by Arthur Sullivan. It was never performed, and most of the music and libretto are now lost.


After his incidental music to The Tempest brought Arthur Sullivan early fame in 1862,[2] he began to experiment with a wide variety of musical compositions. By 1864, he had written a ballet (L'Île Enchantée), several hymns, a few piano solos, and some parlour ballads.[3] He had also set to work on The Sapphire Necklace. As with some of his other compositions at this time, the libretto was provided by his friend Henry F. Chorley. However, this libretto proved particularly difficult to set. Later in life Sullivan would say that no other libretto had given him more difficulty, and an 1879 article suggests that he later decided to suppress the opera due to dislike of the libretto.[4]

The Sapphire Necklace was written for the Pyne & Harrison Opera Company.[5] The young Sullivan worked diligently at the four-act opera during 1863 and 1864, and in October 1865 the house journal of publisher Cramer & Co. advertised "A Grand Romantic Opera by A. S. Sullivan" as "ready", by contrast with operas by Balfe and Wallace described merely as "in preparation".[6] However, the 1864–65 Pyne and Harrison season at Covent Garden proved to be the company's last, and so they never produced the opera.[7] Sullivan found no one willing to produce The Sapphire Necklace, though the overture and selections from it were performed at The Crystal Palace. Despite this, Sullivan would go on to write a cantata with Chorley, The Masque at Kenilworth (1864), and a few stand-alone songs, including "The Long Day Closes" (1868).

Surviving, known music and performances[edit]

On 13 April 1867, a selection of songs from the opera were performed at The Crystal Palace, arranged for military band by Charles Godfrey Jr. The overture proved popular and went on to appear in numerous further concerts.[8] Like many of Sullivan's early pieces, the overture is in the style of Mendelssohn and shows that The Sapphire Necklace was a more serious work than the comic operas for which Sullivan later became famous.

The two other songs, "Over the Roof" and a now-lost recitative and prayer, "Then come not yet," were less successful. Only the former went as far as publication, and neither would appear again at a major concert in Sullivan's lifetime. The madrigal, "When Love and Beauty to be Married," would be saved by the Victorian love of parlour ballads, but the rest of the score, as well as the libretto, was lost. Sullivan sold the score to Metzler in 1878, but bought it back again in 1880. Sullivan evidently made an effort to revise the score under a new title, The False Heiress. He also mentioned, in an 1897 letter to his secretary, Wilfred Bendall, having part of the score in front of him when composing Victoria and Merrie England.[9]

In 2000, an amateur performance of the surviving music and lyrics from the opera was given, with a new libretto by Scott Farrell, in Rockford, Illinois.[10][11]

Surviving Lyrics[edit]

The opening of Charles Godfrey, Jr's military band arrangement of the overture.

When Love and Beauty (Madrigal)[edit]

(With Sullivan's repeats eliminated)

When Love and Beauty to be married go,
Pheobus, without a cloud,
Smiles on the pair.
Though rose-buds pant and blow,
The birds all sing aloud,
Tumultuous Boreas, whom the cedars bowed,
Tamed, like wane of gentle song doth flow,
Saying, till Echo doth repeat the sound,
"May all who wed in truth with happiness be crown'd."

It is not wealth and state that smooth the way,
Nor bid the desert bloom,
The ploughman at his furrow can be gay,
The weaver at his loom.
Where Honour's Lord content his wife hath room,
And hearts keep light if heads are gray,
Singing, till Echo doth repeat the sound,
"May all who wed in truth with happiness be crown'd."

Over the Roof[edit]

Over the roof and over the wall,
Grow, grow, the jessamine grow.
For ever and ever more white and tall
(No matter the dwelling be high or low!)
For yet palace be lofty and moat be wide
And mailed the bridge and lordly the towers,
There love can prevail over pomp and pride
Like the cherished beauty of those sweet flowers!
Love, love, love.
Love will not alter under the sun
While the woods grow and the waters run!

Down by the meadow, down to the sea
(Flow, flow, the river will flow)
The turf may be green, or wither'd the tree
(But the heat is the same on the cobble below.)
For whatever the season around that deep stream,
Be it snow-white winter or summer hot,
There is love, tho' a wand'rer as some might dream
Who passes and passes, yet changes not.
Ah! Love, love, love.
Love will be master under the sun
While the wood grows and the waters run!


  • 1972 – Fulham Light Operatic Society recorded the two surviving vocal numbers, "When love and beauty" and "Over the roof", as bonus tracks on their world premiere recording of Sullivan's The Zoo.
  • 1992 – RTÉ Concert Orchestra of Dublin (Andrew Penny, conductor), recorded a reconstruction of the overture by Sullivan scholar Roderick Spencer.
  • 1993 – Gregg Smith Singers recorded "When love and beauty," a CD called Madrigals — and All That Jazz on the Newport Classic label, NPD 85524. The disc also includes a doo-wop version of the number.
  • 2000 – Alderley Singers & Festival Orchestra (Peter England, conductor) recorded both of the surviving vocal numbers together with other "forgotten" items by Sullivan and Michael William Balfe.


  1. ^ Bond, Ian; Farron, Jim; Howarth, Paul (2003). "The Sapphire Necklace". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  2. ^ Howarth, Paul (22 December 2009). "Sullivan's Incidental Music to Shakespeare's The Tempest". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  3. ^ "Sir Arthur Sullivan's Songs and Parlour Ballads". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
    "Sullivan's Instrumental and Chamber Music". The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. 2004. Retrieved 24 May 2012.
  4. ^ Article on Sullivan in Scribner's Monthly, vol. XVIII, 1879, p. 906
  5. ^ Lamb, Andrew. "Sullivan and Victorian Romantic Opera", Sir Arthur Sullivan Society Magazine, No. 76, Summer 2011; pp. 23–31
  6. ^ The Orchestra, No. 106, 7 October 1865; p. 24
  7. ^ Kingsford, C L. "Harrison, William (1813–1868)", rev. John Rosselli, Oxford Dictionary of National Biography, Oxford University Press, retrieved 14 April 2015 (subscription required)
  8. ^ Jacobs, p. 41 and passim
  9. ^ Shepherd, Marc (2005). "The Sapphire Necklace". The Gilbert and Sullivan Discography. Retrieved 2007-10-26.
  10. ^ Homepage of The Royal English Opera Company
  11. ^ Farrell, Scott. Libretto to Farrell's version of The Sapphire Necklace, Chris Browne's catalogue


External links[edit]