The First Great Dickensian Operetta: “Pickwick” (1889)

Michael H. Hardern
Operetta Research Center
31 January. 2016

Retrospect Opera, a registered charity in Britain, has launched a project to record the operetta Pickwick (1889) by Sir Francis Burnand and Edward Solomon.

Composer Edward Solomon.

Composer Edward Solomon.

Solomon was one of the leading composers of operetta in Britain in the 1880s and 90s. He died at age 39, by which time he had written dozens of works produced for the stage, including several for the D’Oyly Carte Opera Company, including The Nautch Girl. He was regularly compared to the other D’Oyly Carte star composer: Arthur Sullivan.

Amazingly, though, this will be the first time any of Solomon’s music has been recorded. Burnand claimed, with good reason, to be the father of English operetta, having written Cox and Box for Sullivan as early as 1866. Pickwick is a work in the same vein as Cox and Box and contemporary reviewers immediately noticed the similarity.

Pickwick is derived from Charles Dickens’s classic novel, The Pickwick Papers, and Retrospect Opera are promoting it as the first great Dickensian musical. The role of Mr. Pickwick will be sung by Simon Butteriss.

A scene from the "Pickwick Papers": The Goblin and the Sexton.

A scene from the “Pickwick Papers”: The Goblin and the Sexton.

Retrospect Opera relies on donations from enthusiasts to make their recordings possible. Anyone wishing to see Pickwick revived is warmly encouraged to visit the Retrospect website. Anyone who donates £25 or more to the project will get their name on the Retrospect website and a copy of the recording when released. Larger donations get additional rewards.

The "father of British operetta": F. C. Burnand.

The “father of British operetta”: F. C. Burnand.

There is one comment

  1. John Groves

    To be honest, this 40 minute work is a disappointment! Musically it is nowhere near the same level as Sullivan or German, and the dialogue has long ago lost any wit it might have had. Performances are enthusiastic but lack direction, and the use of a boy treble who cannot sing in tune, and whos voice is unable to blend with the other singers in ensemble numbers is painful! The piano accompaniment is too obtrusive.
    Far more worthwhile is the other work on the CD: a short piece with three songs by George Grossmith.