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30th Aniversary Season - 2008
The Yeomen of The Guard
Comic Opera in 2 acts by William S. Gilbert. Music by Arthur S. Sullivan.
Premiere: Savoy Theatre, London, 3 October 1888
In an inheritance scam by a scheming relative, the bearded Colonel Fairfax has been condemned to death for sorcery and is to be executed this very day at the Tower of London. Sergeant Meryll, of the Yeomen of The Guard, concocts a plan whereby his son, Leonard, arriving to join the Yeomen, will go into hiding and be impersonated by a beardless, unrecognizable Fairfax, thus providing time to seek a pardon. In order to thwart his unscrupulous kinsman, Fairfax begs the Tower Lieutenant to find him a wife. Jester Jack Point and his intended bride, the strolling singer Elsie Maynard, arrive in town; the lieutenant confronts Elsie and, with the promise of 100 crowns and an assurance to Jack that her new husband will shortly be dead, Elsie is blindfolded, whisked away, and married to Fairfax. The plan goes awry when the condemned prisoner is missing from his cell. Point, desperate for Elsie's affections, announces that Fairfax has been killed in an escape attempt. Elsie is immediately wooed by both Point and Fairfax. When the real Leonard arrives with a pardon for Fairfax, Elsie discovers that her "Leonard" is really Fairfax and that she is already married to the man she loves. Jack Point falls insensible at their feet.
In its juxtaposition of comedy and pathos and the human, rather than farcical, qualities of its characters, Yeomen holds a unique place among the Gilbert and Sullivan operettas. Both composers, in fact, felt that it was their finest collaboration. There are few, if any, songs in the operetta repertoire as sincere and emotionally grabbing as Jack and Elsie's "I have a song to sing, O!"