The Beauty Stone

(Sullivan and A.W. Pinero/Comyns Carr, 1898)

Background | Recordings


After the failure of The Grand Duke, Richard D'Oyly Carte kept the Savoy going with G&S revivals, but he was unable to find anything new that would take his audience's fancy. Carte hoped a new Sullivan opera would do the trick, but The Beauty Stone was an unmitigated disaster.

The story seems a promising one: an ugly and disfigured peasant girl is transformed through the agency of a magic stone, and she wins the love of a handsome hero. The stone's effects eventually wear off, but the hero is blinded in battle, and the couple can live happily ever after — the hero unaware of his bride's restored condition.

Unfortunately, Sullivan's librettists were "gifted and brilliant men with no experience in writing for music," and the the music was said to be "characterless and might have been written by any composer of the day." The opera ran for but seven weeks.

Criticisms of Sullivan's score are, in fact, mostly unfair. The score is one of his most sophisticated and beautiful. What killed the opera was the theatre where it premiered. The Beauty Stone's serious theme was more suited to Covent Garden than the Savoy. In a house where the audience were accustomed to laugh, this opera was not at home. Had it premiered elsewhere, with theatregoers' expectations properly set, The Beauty Stone might well have won the recognitionj it deserves.


*** 1983 Prince Consort Ster LP CD

The 1983 Prince Consort recording suffers occasionally from sloppy orchestral playing, but the vocalists are mostly first-rate. It is, on the whole, a satisfactory recording.

Two numbers from the opera were included in Sullivan & Co.: The Operas that Got Away. One can only hope for the day when the remainder of the score can be recorded on the professional level heard on this recording.