Coleridge-Taylor opera to premiere at Ashcroft Theatre

The Fairfield Halls is to stage the world premiere of Samuel Coleridge-Taylor‘s long-lost opera Thelma next month.

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, the eminent Edwardian composer, whose long-lost work Thelma is to premiere at the Fairfield Halls

This is the centenary year of Coleridge-Taylor’s death, and Surrey Opera is organising a festival of the work of the Croydon-based composer, whose Hiawatha choral work was as popular in Edwardian England as Handel’s Messiah.

“The Black Mahler”, a title he was given after performing in New York in 1910, was a significant figure at the turn of the 20th Century, earning the support of Edward Elgar and later Malcolm Sargent, and the widespread admiration of African Americans.

Coleridge-Taylor was born in London in 1875. His parents were not married and his father, Dr Daniel Taylor, originally from Sierra Leone, had left for The Gambia not knowing he had a son.

Coleridge-Taylor was brought up in Croydon by his mother, Alice Martin, and her father. Coming from a musical family, Coleridge-Taylor won a place at the Royal College of Music, and by his early 20s was writing works which won popular acclaim, such as Hiawatha’s Wedding Feast. He also taught and conducted at the Croydon Conservatoire.

Coleridge-Taylor died, aged just 37, in 1912, when at the height of his fame.

The fate of one of his later works, the opera Thelma which he had spent three years working on, has been a century-long mystery. The manuscript disappeared shortly after the composer’s death.

But while working on a PhD on Coleridge-Taylor’s life and work, academic Catherine Carr uncovered the missing work in the British Library.

Now, after some work on the original documents, Thelma is about to brought to the stage for the first time with a new performing edition by Stephen Anthony Brown. The opera will be performed in the Ashcroft Theatre on February 9, 10 and 11.

The opera is believed to be based on an 1887 Nordic novel, and according to Surrey Opera, “Thelma is a thrilling saga of deceit, magic, retribution and the triumph of love over evil.”

The world premiere production will be directed by Christopher Cowell, designed by Bridget Kimak, and conducted by Jonathan Butcher, Surrey Opera’s Artistic Director. The cast includes Joanna Weeks as Thelma and Alberto Sousa as Eric, as well as the Surrey Opera Chorus and full orchestra.

  • Tickets for this world premiere event cost £18-£25 and can be ordered by phoning: 020 8688 9291, or by visiting the Fairfield Halls website.

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