Dictionary of National Biography, 1901 supplement/Cellier, Alfred

CELLIER, ALFRED (1844–1891), composer and conductor, son of Arsène Cellier, French master of Hackney grammar school, was born at Hackney, London, on 1 Dec. 1844. He was educated at the grammar school there, and at the age of eleven he became one of the children of the Chapel Royal, St. James's, where he had as a fellow chorister Sir Arthur Sullivan [q. v. Suppl.] Cellier held the following organ appointments: 1862, All Saints', Blackheath; 1866, Ulster Hall, Belfast (in succession to Dr. E. T. Chipp), and conductor of the Belfast Philharmonic Society; 1868, St. Alban's, Holborn. He soon, however, exchanged the organist's career for that of a composer and conductor. He was the first musical director of the Court Theatre (January 1871); from 1871 to 1875 director of the orchestra at the Opera Comique, Manchester; from 1877 to 1879 at the Opera Comique, London; in 1878–9 he was joint conductor, with Sir Arthur Sullivan, of the promenade concerts, Covent Garden, and he also held similar appointments at various theatres. He subsequently, owing to considerations of health, resided abroad, especially in America and Australia, Cellier's chief claim to fame rests upon his comic operas. The most successful of these was 'Dorothy,' which had an extraordinary popularity when produced at the Gaiety Theatre on 25 Sept. 1886, and a run of upwards of nine hundred nights. The opera was a fresh arrangement of his 'Nell Gwynne' music, produced ten years before, but with a new libretto. The song 'Queen of my Heart,' one of the most popular numbers in the opera, was a forgotten ballad composed by him several years before, and which had long been reposing on the shelves of a London music publisher. Cellier's other comic operas were: 'Charity begins at Home' (Gallery of Illustration, 1870); 'The Sultan of Mocha,' Prince's Theatre, Manchester, 16 Nov. 1874 (revived at Strand Theatre, London, with new libretto, 21 Sept. 1887); 'The Tower of London' (Manchester, 4 Oct. 1875); 'Nell Gwynne' (Manchester, 16 Oct. 1876); 'The Foster Brothers' (St. George's Hall, London, 1876); 'Dora's Dream' (17 Nov. 1877); 'The Spectre Knight' (9 Feb. 1878); 'Bella Donna, or the Little Beauty and the Great Beast' (Manchester, April 1878); 'After All' (London, 16 Dec. 1879); 'In the Sulks' (21 Feb. 1880); 'The Carp' (Savoy Theatre, 13 Feb, 1886); 'Mrs. Jarramie's Genie' (Savoy. 14 Feb. 1888); 'Doris' (Lyric Theatre, April 1889); and 'The Mountebanks,' libretto by W. S. Gilbert (Lyric Theatre, 4 Jan. 1892).

Gifted with a vein of melody, Cellier judged his genius to be best adapted to the production of comic opera, but his muse was often hampered by weak libretti. He was less successful in more serious work. His grand opera in three acts, 'Pandora' (to Longfellow's words), was produced in Boston, U.S.A., in 1881, but it has never been performed in England. He set Gray's 'Elegy' as a cantata for the Leeds musical festival of 1883, composed incidental music to 'As you like it' (1885), a suite symphonique for orchestra, a barcarolle for flute and piano-forte, various songs and pianoforte pieces, of which latter a danse Pompadour is well known. He was an excellent organ player and had a fine literary taste. He wrote a trenchant article in 'The Theatre' of October 1878, entitled 'A Nightmare of Tradition,' in which he put forward a plea for English opera. The worry of producing his last opera ('The Mountebanks'), which he did not live to see performed, doubtless hastened his premature end. He died at 69 Torrington Square, Bloomsbury, the house of a friend, 28 Dec. 1891, aged 47. His remains are interred in Norwood cemetery.

[Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, iv, 683; James D. Brown and S. S. Stratton's British Musical Biography; Musical Herald, February 1892; Brit. Mus. Cat.]

F. G. E.