Trained at the Royal Academy of Music and Leipzig Conservatory, this son of an Irish bandmaster spent ten years as a cathedral organist while conducting and composing in all the major classical genres, including his first one-act comic opera Cox and Box in 1867. It was during its run that he met his future creative partner, William Gilbert, a former clerk and barrister who had become a successful theatrical writer. The two first collaborated in 1871, and followed up with a string of productions whose lively combination of clever lyrics and brilliant musical parodies created a style all its own, referred to as “Savoy Opera,” so named after the London theater where their greatest works were first produced.
Of the twelve productions co-written by Gilbert and Sullivan, the most successful were H.M.S. Pinafore (1878), The Pirates of Penzance (1879) and The Mikado (1885), which remain immensely popular in Britain and the USA. Composer of “The Lost Chord” (1877) and the hymn tune “Onward Christian Soldiers” (1871), Sullivan is remembered not just for his show music, but as an artist of depth, inspiration and tremendous versatility.