Alfred Cellier was a conductor for many years at Gilbert & Sullivan's D'Oyly Carte Opera Company and certainly knew the output of that duo by heart. He composed several operettas of his own, and Dorothy, from 1886, was actually the longest-running stage work of the 19th century, drawing nightly audiences for nearly three years and eclipsing The Mikado and everything else. Cellier went on to write a work with Gilbert, The Mountebanks, which has occasionally been revived, but Dorothy has been completely forgotten. One can see why this was: the words and music do not hang together in the magic way they usually do with Gilbert & Sullivan. Yet an operetta company reviving it will have a good experience, and the Victorian Opera Orchestra & Chorus, under the direction of the nearly nonagenarian Richard Bonynge, have done a great service here. Cellier's music is strongly reminiscent of Sullivan's, and indeed some of it was recycled from an earlier failed operetta of 1876, when Gilbert & Sullivan were just getting started. Sample "With such a dainty dame," and you will be reminded of "A wand'ring minstrel I," which it may actually have preceded. Cellier thought through Sullivan's style at multiple levels, furnishing attractive choruses that allude to madrigals and popular dances in the way that Sullivan's did. It's all a little mismatched to the libretto by B.C. Stephenson, a rustic romance about two country girls who show up at a party in disguise; one attracts the attention of a city slicker on the run from the law. But strong performers would put the work across, and it receives excellent ones here, most notably from the sparkling and unerringly humorous Irish soprano Majella Cullagh in the lead role. Recommended.
AllMusic Review by James Manheim
Act I: The grounds of the Hop-Pole Inn (an autumn morning): Opening Chorus: Lads and lasses round about
Act I: The grounds of the Hop-Pole Inn (an autumn morning): Song and Trio: Be wise in time, Oh Phyllis
Act I: The grounds of the Hop-Pole Inn (an autumn morning): Song and Trio: I am the Sheriff's faithful man