Even by Wexford standards, Alfred Cellier (1844-91) is a rarely heard composer. He was a school friend of Arthur Sullivan, and the connections with Victorian operetta don’t stop there.
THE SPECTRE KNIGHT
’Fanciful Operetta’ in one act
Libretto by James Albery
Sung in English
First performance: Opera Comique, London, 1878
Cellier's Topsyturveydom, has a libretto by W.S. Gilbert, and he collaborated with Gilbert again on his final work, The Mountebanks. As a conductor, Cellier worked with companies including the D’Oyly Carte, touring with them as far afield as Australia and the USA.
Cellier’s style has been described as ‘elegant and infallibly musical’, and it served him well across a career that saw him compose such memorable titles as Charity Begins at Home, Tower of London, Nell Gwynne, Belladonna and Dorothy.
Appearing midway through his output of around 15 works for the lyric stage, The Spectre Knight, premiered in 1878, is labelled a ‘fanciful operetta’.
In a lonely glen there lives a banished Duke, his daughter Viola and a small band of courtiers who help them maintain the style of the former ducal establishment. But Viola knows nothing of life beyond the secluded glen; she was an infant when the Duke was banished there. When the Duke’s nephew Otho arrives, disguised as a friar, he falls in love with his cousin. Hearing from her of the Spectre Knight who is supposed to haunt the glen after dark, he reappears that night dressed as the ghost and wins Viola’s heart. When all is revealed, Otho is able to disclose that he has also overthrown the usurper of her father's dukedom and that they can all return to their former home. The Duke gives Otho his daughter’s hand in marriage.