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British Musical Theatre   Basil Hood

HOOD, Basil (b Yorkshire, 5 April 1864; d London, 7 August 1917). Librettist and lyricist acclaimed as the 'new Gilbert', but who turned out to have a much wider range than his famous predecessor at the Savoy.

The younger son of Sir Charles Hood, Basil Hood was educated at Wellington and Sandhurst and joined the army at the age of 19, rising to be a Captain (1893) in the Prince of Wales's Own Regiment of Yorkshire. He began writing for the theatre in his mid-twenties, and a first little piece, The Gypsies, was mounted as a curtain-raiser at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1890. He provided the lyrics to Lionel Monckton's song 'What Will You Have to Drink?', interpolated into the Gaiety burlesque Cinder-Ellen Up-too-Late, and wrote two other short operettas before authoring his first full-scale musical comedy, Gentleman Joe, as a vehicle for comedian Arthur Roberts.

Gentleman Joe was a serious hit, and when his army duties threatened to take him away from London just when the time had come to enjoy his success, Hood promptly handed in his commission. He followed up his first winner with another major nationwide hit in the musical comedy The French Maid, and a second successful vehicle for Roberts, Dandy Dan, the Lifeguardsman, before swapping the kind of popular musical comedy at which he had proven so adept for light opera and becoming the partner of Sir Arthur Sullivan, in the place of the estranged W S Gilbert, at the Savoy Theatre. The pair had a fine success with their first collaboration on The Rose of Persia, and the literate and intelligent librettist/lyricist was hailed as a worthy successor to Gilbert, but their second work together was interrupted by the composer's death, and Hood completed The Emerald Isle with Edward German. The new Savoy pairing continued, and together Hood and German turned out Merrie England and A Princess of Kensington before producer William Greet moved out of the light operatic area, effectively ending what looked like becoming a memorable collaboration.

Hood next set to work on a musical comedy based on Romeo and Juliet, but when producer Charles Frohman started chopping up his work to suit casting considerations he withdrew his name from the libretto of what was produced as The Belle of Mayfair. He adapted Sardou's Directoire play as the libretto for George Edwardes's Daly's Theatre musical Les Merveilleuses, supplied the Gaiety Theatre with lyrics for The Girls of Gottenberg, and found himself a new area of expertise when, with the onset of the fashion for the Continental Operette, Edwardes hired him to do the English versions of what became The Merry Widow, A Waltz Dream, The Dollar Princess, The Count of Luxemburg and Gipsy Love.

His original works were few in these years of Continental domination, but in 1913 he authored a superior but only half-successful musical comedy, The Pearl Girl, for Robert Courtneidge. It turned out to be his last work: four years later he was found dead one morning in his bachelor chambers in St James Street, his death brought on, apparently, 'from overwork at the War Office coupled with an indifference to eating'.

Hood directed a number of his own short and provincial pieces.

1890 The Gypsies (Wilfred Bendall) 1 act Prince of Wales Theatre 18 October

1892 Donna Luiza (Walter Slaughter) 1 act Prince of Wales Theatre 23 March

1893 The Crossing Sweeper (Slaughter) 1 act Gaiety Theatre 8 April

1895 Gentleman Joe (Slaughter) Prince of Wales Theatre 2 March

1896 The French Maid (Slaughter) Bath 4 April, Terry's Theatre, London 24 April 1897

1896 Belinda (Slaughter/w B C Stephenson) Prince's Theatre, Manchester 5 October

1897 The Duchess of Dijon (Slaughter) Portsmouth 20 September

1897 Dandy Dan, the Lifeguardsman (Slaughter) Lyric Theatre 4 December

1897 Hans Andersen's Fairytales (Slaughter) Terry's Theatre 23 December

1898 Orlando Dando (Slaughter) Grand Theatre, Fulham 1 August

1898 Her Royal Highness (Slaughter) Vaudeville Theatre 3 September

1899 The Rose of Persia (Arthur Sullivan) Savoy Theatre 29 November

1901 The Emerald Isle (Sullivan, Edward German) Savoy Theatre 27 April

1901 The Willow Pattern (Cecil Cook) 1 act Savoy Theatre 14 November

1901 Ib and Little Christina (Franco Leoni) 1 act Savoy Theatre 14 November

1902 Merrie England (German) Savoy Theatre 2 April

1903 A Princess of Kensington (German) Savoy Theatre 22 January

1903 Little Hans Andersen revised Hans Andersen's Fairytales Adelphi Theatre 23 December

1905 The Golden Girl (Hamish MacCunn) Prince of Wales Theatre, Birmingham 5 August

1906 The Belle of Mayfair (Leslie Stuart/vv C H E Brookfield) Vaudeville Theatre 11 April

1906 Les Merveilleuses (Hugo Felix/Victorien Sardou ad) Daly's Theatre 27 October

1907 The Girls of Gottenberg (Ivan Caryll, Lionel Monckton/w Adrian Ross/L E Berman, George Grossmith) Gaiety Theatre 15 May

1907 The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) English version (Daly's Theatre)

1908 The Dollar Princess (Die Dollarprinzessin) English version (Daly's Theatre)

1911 A Waltz Dream (Ein Walzertraum) new English version (Daly's Theatre)

1911 The Count of Luxemburg (Der Graf von Luxemburg) English version (Daly's Theatre)

1912 Gipsy Love (Zigeunerliebe) English version (Daly's Theatre)

1913 The Pearl Girl (Felix, Howard Talbot) Shaftesbury Theatre 25 September

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