Richard Lansdale Munkittrick, better known as Howard Talbot (March 9, 1865 - September 12, 1928), was a conductor and composer best known for his 1899 hit musical, A Chinese Honeymoon, and a number of other successful British musicals in the early years of the 20th century.
Life and career
Of Irish descent, Talbot was born in America but moved to London at the age of 4. Originally planning on entering the medical profession, he switched to music and pursued a musical education at the Royal College of Music. For some years, although Talbot had had works staged by amateurs, professionally he only succeeded in placing a few individual songs into other peoples productions.
Talbot's first full professionally produced comic opera was Wapping Old Stairs in 1894. The success of this production, performed in King's Lynn in Norfolk, led to a transfer of the show to London in 1894. Despite have a cast including Jessie Bond, Courtice Pounds and Richard Temple from the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company, the show was not received well and closed after one month. A follow up work, Eye-van-hoe, was also considered to be a flop. Talbot was left in the unfortunate position of having to sue the producers for monies owed to him for this work.
At this time, Talbot earned the bulk of his living from conducting for touring productions. Although he continued to compose, with some success with Monte Carlo in 1896, Talbot's name was not considered to be a major force in British musical theatre and he continued to be mainly thought of as a supplier of individual additional songs that were inserted into works primarily written by others.
Talbot's first blockbuster hit was A Chinese Honeymoon, written in 1899 and finally presented in London in 1891. This musical had started life as a small touring show, and Talbot had composed the bulk of the music. A Chinese Honeymoon went on to run for over 1,000 performances in London and found large audiences around the world. Talbot continued to conduct at the Gaiety Theatre and went on to compose further musicals with mixed results.
A number of Talbot's shows in the first decade of the new century were successes that had international tours, including The Blue Moon (1904), The White Chrysanthemum (1905), The Girl Behind the Counter (1906), and The Belle of Brittany (1908). In 1909, Talbot teamed up with Lionel Monckton to produce The Arcadians, which went on to become one of the most successful Edwardian musicals. The following musicals, such as The Mousmé in 1911 and The Pearl Girl in 1913, were only modest successes, however, and musical styles began to change.
While the careers of other composers began to fade, due to not adopting the new dance rythms, a third hit was on the horizon. In 1916 Talbot contributed to a reworking of High Jinks, a Rudolph Friml show in disguise. Subsequently, Talbot and Monckton were hired to write the complete score for the hit 1917 musical The Boy, a vehicle for comedian Bill Perry, who had been the star of High Jinks. My Niece's (1921), was to be Talbot's final West End theatre production.
After retiring from professional theatre, Howard Talbot continued to compose. These works, however, where produced for the amateur theatre companies with which he had worked earlier in his career. Talbot died at Reigate, England, at the age of 63.
Talbot's obituary was published in Musical Times, Vol. 69, No. 1028 (Oct. 1, 1928), pp. 943-944.