|You are here: Archive Home > Sullivan > Major Works > Cox and Box
by Ian Bond
With this little work, Arthur Sullivan made his first entry into the world of comic opera. He had already completed his first operatic work during the early 1860's, but that work (The Sapphire Necklace or The False Heiress with libretto by H. F. Chorley) never reached the stage, and although the rights of publication were, at one point, assigned to the publisher, Metzler, the opera was never printed.
Cox and Box received its first performance in private on 16 May 1866. This took place at Moray Lodge in Kensington, the home of Arthur Lewis, and the regular venue for the 'Moray Minstrels', a group of musicians, actors and artists. Burnand later claimed that the first performance actually took place at his house three days earlier, but this may have been no more than a rehearsal.
The libretto for this one act little masterpiece was adapted from the famous farce Box and Cox by John Madison Morton, by librettist and sometime editor of Punch, Francis Cowley Burnand.
A year later, the death of Punch artist, Charles Bennett, resulted in the piece being performed for the first time in public at the Adelphi Theatre, and from then on Cox and Box became a favourite, appearing as a curtain raier to many productions world wide.
The triumviretta, in an abridged form, eventually entered the repertoire of the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company in 1894 as a partner to another Burnand and Sullivan work, The Chieftain.
Abridged even further, Cox and Box was again staged by the D'Oyly Carte in the 1920's and continued, in the so called 'Savoy Version', to partner at various times The Sorcerer, H.M.S. Pinafore and The Pirates of Penzance well into the 1970's.
The original cast of Cox and Box was as follows:
Cox — George du Maurier
Page modified 24 January 2012. Copyright © 2012 The Gilbert and Sullivan Archive. All Rights Reserved.