Of Revivals and Delayed Premieres
: Performing Thomas Dunhill’s Forgotten Opera, Something in the City

  • Clare Wheat-Gooing

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Conceived in response to the discovery of a hitherto unperformed comic opera by Thomas. F. Dunhill and the consideration of performing practice issues surrounding a potential staging of this work, this thesis examines aspects of historically-informed performance relevant to the genres of British Light Opera. An investigation of vocal technique and style, including voice production, phrasing, breathing, pronunciation and rubato, as heard in recordings of singers known to have performed in comic operas by Dunhill and his contemporaries, will seek to establish a paradigm for vocal performance in this genre. Dunhill’s unperformed opera, lacking an established performance tradition in the manner of the Savoy Operas of Gilbert and Sullivan, provides a valuable opportunity for the adoption of fresh perspectives in performance.

Much valuable research has been undertaken in recent years into nineteenthcentury historical vocal performance. The present study, whilst informed by such research, will highlight similarities and differences between performance techniques in opera and the collaboration of genres which make British Light Opera. This will be done through the use of detailed analysis, drawing on audio and audio visual evidence, such as that available through Pathé films of performers such as Trefor Jones (tenor lead in Dunhill’s Tantivy Towers under the composer’s supervision) to comprehensively address issues of physicality in performance.

This thesis is accompanied by audio and video recordings of a concert version of the comic opera Something in the City, performed in St. Paul’s Hall, University of Huddersfield on 27th January 2019. These recordings provide examples of a performance of the opera using historically appropriate approaches to style and technique. Additional recorded material demonstrating experimentation with related vocal music is also included as a precursor to the opera.
Date of Award2023
Original languageEnglish
SupervisorDavid Milsom (Main Supervisor)

Cite this