Fallen Fairies was the final opera to be written by the great W.S. Gilbert, who is famous for his long collaboration with Arthur Sullivan. Gilbert had been obsessed with his fairy opera since the first performance of a piece called The Wicked World, which debuted in 1873. It was later lampooned by Gilbert, after a court case that ruled it 'indecent', in a play called The Happy Land. Gilbert later made a famous fairy opera, known as Iolanthe, whose conclusion perfected the idea that mortal love may even come to fairies. But he couldn't leave it alone; Gilbert made The Wicked World into an opera and offered the libretto to other composers (including Sullivan). All of them rejected it, until Edward German agreed to create a score for it. German's letters indicate that he was flattered by Gilbert's invitation, which may have had much to do with his agreement to take on the project. The two men worked so well together that there were plans to make Gilbert's The Palace of Truth into an opera as well.
The happy moment did not last, for Fallen Fairies lasted only six weeks at the Savoy. Manager C. H. Workman fired Gilbert's protegee, Nancy McIntosh, only a week into the show, which led to yet another legal case. Gilbert never forgave Workman (whose action was influenced by his backers), and in asking German to support Gilbert's claim, poor Edward was caught in the middle of a no-win situation. Eventually, the audiences dropped, the production closed, and, seeing that there was no point in continuing, Gilbert withdrew his legal action against Workman and his syndicate. German was so embarrassed by the ordeal that he never wrote for the stage again. McIntosh, presumably, never appeared on a stage again, either. Gilbert died in 1911, never writing a libretto again, and the opera has been in the dustbin ever since.
The plot of the opera concerns fairies who summon mortals to their perfect world so they might experience love, while the mortals may learn the truths of immorality. For more information on the Fallen Fairies debacle, please see the Gilbert and Sullivan Archive's page, which can be found here.
Background contributed by Richard Temperley
Fallen Fairies has had an abysmal recording history. At the end of the original run, there were no recordings of selections. For the rest of the 20th century, it seemed destined to obscurity, and not having the distinction of ever being recorded (even in part). Its only professional appearance since the premiere was the BBC broadcast of selections. Although there are a couple recordings of selections, I can't recommend any of them. The video of the first revival, by Newcastle G&S, was just acceptable, and for years, it was the only available recording. The opera had its North American premiere in 2011, but the video recording quality was poor that the audio is unlistenable. In 2014, Fallen Fairies was performed in an abridged version at the Harrogate Gilbert & Sullivan Festival, and remains the best available recording of the opera.