Haddon Hall

(Sullivan and Sydney Grundy; 1892)

Background | Recordings


Haddon Print
Contemporary drawing of Haddon Hall

With the run of Gilbert and Sullivan collaborations ended by the Carpet Quarrel, Richard D'Oyly Carte had to scramble to find new works for the Savoy. After two Edward Solomon operas (The Nautch Girl and The Vicar of Bray), Haddon Hall opened at the Savoy on September 24, 1892. It enjoyed a respectable run exceeding 200 performances and toured for several years in the provinces. George Bernard Shaw proclaimed it "the highest and most consistent expression" of the Savoy opera genre, and Arthur Jacobs judges it "a better work than Ivanhoe."

Unlike any previous Savoy Opera, Haddon Hall was based on an actual incident — the elopement of Dorothy Vernon in 1561. The librettist, Sydney Grundy, advanced the story about a hundred years and superimposed it on a backdrop of the English Civil War. The plot is largely a serious one, with comic relief provided by a band of Scottish Puritans and their leader, The McCrankie. Despite Grundy's highly uneven and poorly constructed libretto, the work brought brought out some of Sullivan's best work. Arguably the best of Sullivan's full-length operas without Gilbert, Haddon Hall has much to recommend it, though it lacks the consistency of the better G&S operas.

Haddon Print
Another contemporary drawing of Haddon Hall

In 2000, the Prince Consort completed its cycle of the Sullivan operas with a recording of Haddon Hall. This was not only the best of the Consort series, but also an excellent recording overall. Would that more of Sullivan's operas were so well served.

The two other complete recordings, both of which are now out of print, are competent but not outstanding. The 1980s Reading University set (issued by the Sir Arthur Sullivan Society) features full dialogue and is a bit better musically, but the sound is poor. The 1981 Cheam Operatic Society recording is a bit easier on the ears, but the singers are at best strong amateurs.

Four selections from the opera were issued on the 1998 CD, Sullivan & Co.: The Operas that Got Away.


** 1981 Cheam Operatic Society Ster LP
** 1992 Reading University Ster Dial Cass
**** 2000 Prince Consort Dig CD