Arthur Seymour Sullivan, on the day when he popped by the rehearsal at the Royal Gallery of Illustration, was a recently appointed
professor at the Royal Academy of Music. For a young man of 27, born in the squalor of cockney
Lambeth, he had already come a
long way. At the age of 12 he was splendid in the scarlet and gold of the Chapel Royal choir; and sacred music and royal
connections were to play a large part in his life forever after.
From his Italian mother and Irish bandmaster father, Sullivan received his warmth and charm and his musical gifts — his feeling for
hauntingly romantic melody, for stirring church music, for the brisk and intricate rhythms of parade-ground tattoos. His music genius
announced itself at an early age, as did his radiant and amiable personality. "I shall miss your
happy little face and black eyes at my dinner table," his mother wrote when he was 13 and a chorister at the Chapel Royal.
Sullivan, in spite of the fragile health that plagued him all his life, accomplished a prodigious amount of composition. He had his first
work when he was 13. He was inspired to work hard. In London in the 1860s he composed concerti, piano works, a symphony,
marches, overtures, an oratorio, a ballet, songs, religious music, and two comic operas.
At the age of 21 Sullivan was commissioned to write no less than three of his special works, including the Wedding March,
celebrating the shining event of the year: the marriage of the Prince of Wales (later Edward VII) to the beautiful Princess Alexandra of
Denmark. It marked the beginning of the composer’s relationship with the royal family. Over the years he became a member of the
Prince of Wale’s set, a close friend of the Duke of Edinburgh and the Princess Louise, and was knighted by their mother, Queen
Victoria, at Windsor Castle in 1883 — a good twenty-four years ahead of W. S. Gilbert.
Not until two years after their casual introduction were Gilbert and Sullivan brought together for a theatrical purpose.
Source: The Gilbert and Sullivan Operas, by Darlene Geis, 1983 NY USA, pp.7-9.