The Yeoman of the Guard
The Yeomen of the Guard, or The Merryman and his Maid, is a Savoy Opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and libretto by W. S. Gilbert. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on 3 October 1888, and ran for 423 performances. This was the eleventh collaboration of fourteen between Gilbert and Sullivan.
The opera is set in the Tower of London, during the 16th century, and is the darkest, and perhaps most emotionally engaging, of the Savoy Operas, ending with a broken-hearted main character and two very reluctant engagements, rather than the usual numerous marriages. The libretto does contain considerable humour, including a lot of pun-laden one-liners, and Gilbert’s trademark satire and topsy-turvy plot complications. The dialogue, though in prose, is quasi-Shakespearian, or early modern English, in style.
Many consider the score to be Sullivan’s finest, including an overture written in sonata form, rather than as a sequential pot-pourri of tunes from the opera, as in most of his other overtures. This was the first Savoy Opera to use Sullivan’s larger orchestra, including a second bassoon and third trombone. Prior to Yeomen, Sullivan’s standard pit orchestra had just one bassoon and two trombones. Most of Sullivan’s subsequent operas, including those not composed with Gilbert as librettist, use this larger orchestra.
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