The Emerald Isle

The Emerald Isle

"The Emerald Isle"; "or, The Caves of Carrig-Cleena", is a two-act comic opera, with music by Arthur Sullivan and Edward German, and a libretto by Basil Hood. It premiered at the Savoy Theatre on April 27 1901, closing on November 9 1901 after a run of 205 performances. There was also a brief run in New York at the Herald Square Theatre for just 50 performances, opening on September 1 1902, and closing on October 18 1902.

The opening night cast included Robert Evett, Walter Passmore, Henry Lytton, Rosina Brandram, Isabel Jay, and Louie Pounds. During the run of "The Emerald Isle", William Greet took over management of the Savoy Theatre.

Modern productions of the work have been rare. The Prince Consort recorded the piece in Britain live in performance at the fringe of the Edinburgh Festival in 1982. [ [ Prince Consort recording] ] The piece was also given in Edinburgh and then Torquay, England, in 1998. A concert production was performed by Valley Light Opera in Amherst, Massachusetts on March 8, 2008 with a narration written by Jonathan Strong. This is the first known U.S. performance of the opera with full orchestra since 1902.


For much of the 1890s, impresario Richard D'Oyly Carte struggled to find successful shows to fill the Savoy. He finally found one in Sullivan and Hood's "The Rose of Persia" (1899), and the two men quickly agreed to collaborate again. However, Sullivan, who had increasingly struggled with ill health, died on November 22 1900, leaving "The Emerald Isle" incomplete. Carte himself died on April 27 1901, and the opera was produced by his widow, Helen Carte.

At his death, Sullivan had finished two numbers in their entirety, leaving behind sketches of at least the voice parts for about half of the others. Carte commissioned Edward German to complete the numbers Sullivan had sketched and to compose the rest of the opera himself. German, to this point, was known chiefly as a composer of orchestral and incidental music, but "The Emerald Isle" was sufficiently successful to launch him on an operatic career. German's most famous opera was "Merrie England", also written with Basil Hood.

Unlike Hood's first opera with Sullivan, "The Rose of Persia", "The Emerald Isle" does not pay homage to the Gilbert and Sullivan comic tradition in any obvious way (except, perhaps, for the mistaken identities). The plot is not reminiscent of Gilbert's topsy-turvy style, nor is there any obvious satiric point. With its Irish jigs and broad comedy, however, the work was at home in the musical comedy style that was then prevalent, and its 205-performance run was considered a modest success by the standards of the time.


* The Earl of Newtown, K.P. ("Lord Lieutenant of Ireland") (bass-baritone)
* Dr. Fiddle, D.D. ("his Private Chaplain") (tenor)
* Terence O'Brian ("a Young Rebel") (tenor)
* Professor Bunn ("Shakespearean Reciter, Character Impersonator, etc.") (comic baritone)
* Pat Murphy ("a Fiddler") (lyric baritone)
* Irish Peasants::Black Dan (baritone):Mickie O'Hara (non-singing)
* H.M. 11th Regiment of Foot::Sergeant Pincher (bass):Private Perry (non-singing)
* Sentry (non-singing)
* The Countess of Newtown (contralto)
* Lady Rosie Pippin ("her Daughter") (soprano)
* Molly O'Grady ("a Peasant Girl") (mezzo-soprano)
* Susan ("Lady Rosie's Maid") (mezzo-soprano)
* Peasant Girls::Nora (non-singing):Kathleen (soprano)

*Chorus of Irish Peasants and Soldiers of 11th Regiment of Foot


According to the libretto, the action takes place "About a Hundred Years Ago."

Act I

"Scene: Outside the Lord Lieutenant's Country Residence."

In a picturesque Irish village, the chorus speculate that Terence O'Brian, a local hero who has long been absent abroad, will soon return. O'Brien indeed appears, but they mistake him for a Saxon (hated by the Irish) because of his English accent. He assures them that, although he was educated at Oxford, he is thoroughly Irish, and is in fact descended from one of the ancient Irish kings, Brian Boru.

Pat Murphy, a blind fiddler, tells O'Brien that the Lord Lieutenant has compelled all of the villagers to adopt English customs and speak in English accents. O'Brien vows to restore Irish customs to the district; he requires only a suitable tutor to re-educate the local people, since they have all forgotten how to be Irish.

Professor Bunn enters. He has overheard the conversation. Although the Lord Lieutenant has hired him to be the Local Professor of English Elocution, he assures them that he can also train the local peasantry to be typically Irish. O'Brien is skeptical, but as Bunn has overheard them, they decide it would be better to forcibly initiate him into their secret society, the Clan-na-Gael. O'Brien tells Bunn that the ceremony will take place at midnight, at the Caves of Carrig-Cleena.

O'Brien is secretly engaged to the Lord Lieutenant's daughter, Lady Rosie Pippin. While he goes off for a secret rendezvous, he leaves Bunn in Murphy's custody. Once they are alone, Murphy admits that he isn't blind at all; he has only feigned blindness. But he is in love with Molly O'Grady, and he wants to tell her how beautiful she is, which he cannot do unless his "blindness" is cured. He suggests that Professor Bunn impersonate a doctor, who will restore his sight. Molly then enters, but she says that if Bunn could cure Murphy, she would marry Bunn. For now, Murphy decides to remain blind, after all.

Jealous of Bunn, Murphy tells O'Brien that Bunn can't be trusted. O'Brien threatens Bunn with death, but offers him a reprieve if he can manage to get a letter to Lady Rosie's maid, which O'Brien himself has been unable to do. Bunn mesmerises the guard at the gate of the Lieutenant's, and goes inside.

Molly warns O'Brien that the Caves of Carrig-Cleena are a dangerous hiding place for the rebels, because fairies reside there. She tells him that the Fairy Cleena, their Queen, has taken a fancy to Blind Murphy, and does his house chores. (It is, in fact, Molly who has been doing them.) Molly and Murphy tell O'Brien the legend of the Fairy Cleena.

Rosie, having received O'Brien's message, comes out to greet him. From Rosie and her maid, Susan, he learns that Bunn had delivered a letter to the Lord Lieutenant himself. O'Brien is now even more convinced that Bunn can't be trusted, but as he wants to be alone with Rosie, he directs Susan to keep an eye on the Professor. However, after Bunn tells Susan he's a detective from Scotland Yard, she allows him to leave, noting that she is much enchanted by detectives. He goes into Murphy's cottage to change into a disguise, which he has brought with him.

The Lord Lieutenant enters, with the Countess and Dr. Fiddle. The Lieutenant is expecting Professor Bunn, who cannot be found. However, he has received an anonymous note warning that the rebel leader Terence O'Brien is in the area, and his hiding place is Carrig-Cleena. The Lieutenant vows to send troops to exterminate the rebels.

Molly and Murphy have overheard this. Learning that Murphy is a musician, the Lieutenant hires him to play the bagpipes, anticipating a victory over the rebels. Molly is aghast when he accepts, as she believes his loyalties should be on the Irish side.

Rosie, too, is distraught, as she fears O'Brien will be in grave danger, but it turns out O'Brien has not yet left for the caves. Rosie warns him that soldiers are on the way, and O'Brien is sure that Bunn has betrayed them. Bunn comes out of Muphy's cottage dressed as an old man, but O'Brien quickly sees through the disguise. O'Brien threatens to kill him, but Molly comes forward with an idea for deterring the soldiers. She knows they are afraid of fairies. She plans to tell them that the Caves of Carrig-Cleena are haunted, and she will impersonate the Fairy Cleena herself. Thinking quickly, Professor Bunn offers to tell the soldiers that he has been imprisoned by the fairies for the last fifty years, and that the same fate awaits them should they go near the caves. Terrence concludes that Bunn will be useful, after all.

The soldiers enter with great pomp. Molly, Bunn, and the others play out their trick, and as expected the soldiers are greatly affected by it. Murphy suggests that the fairies can cure his blindness, but Molly (impersonating the Fairy Cleena) insists that they cannot. The Lord Lieutenant orders the soldiers to attack the rebels, but they have been taken in by the ruse. Panic-stricken, the soldiers disperse.

Act II

"Scene: The Caves of Carrig Cleena."

The peasant rebels nervously await the soldiers' arrival. At first, they are relieved when O'Brien tells them of Professor Bunn's successful ruse. But then Molly rushes in, and tells them the soldiers have changed their minds, and that Carrig-Cleena is now surrounded. Once again, O'Brien suspects that Professor Bunn has deceived them. Bagpipes are heard in the distance, which they all presume are played by Blind Murphy. They suspect that he, too, is a spy.

Rosie and Susan enter. The rebels are aghast to learn that O'Brien's lover is no other than the Lord Lieutenant's daughter. He explains that they had met in London, before they realized that they were on opposite sides of the conflict. He says that they are engaged, but Rosie warns that they cannot be married without her father's consent, which he would never give.

Professor Bunn arrives, and the rebels seize him. O'Brien tells Bunn that the only way he can avoid death is if he can frighten away the eight hundred English soldiers that are now surrounding the area. They develop a plan whereby Molly will once again appear as the Fairy Cleena, with her image projected on the rocks by an apparatus that Bunn provides. Bunn is to appear as a goblin. Rosie will hide behind the rocks and sing a love-song, purportedly the fairies' siren song.

Murphy arrives. He plans to pretend that he has spoken with the fairies, and is cured of his blindness. Professor Bunn decides to try the elaborate ruse. Rosie sings in the background, with Molly's image projected on the rocks. Murphy is overwhelmed, and falls senseless on the stage. O'Brien, however, is not impressed, as the idea was that Murphy would run off and tell the soldiers what had happened, frightening them away. Bunn persuades O'Brien to let him have one more try at it.

When Murphy revives, the rebels accuse him of being a spy, and they put him on trial. Molly stands up in his defence, pointing out that a blind man can't be a spy. Murphy finally admits that he has never been blind. Molly is ashamed by his deception. Terence tells Murphy that he is banished. He sings a sad farewell, and Molly is moved. She admits that she loves him.

The Sergeant enters in advance of the troops. O'Brien warns him of the dangerous Fairy Cleena. Professor Bunn bewitches the Sergeant, and when the Lord Lieutenant enters with the Countess, they find the Sergeant apparently insane. Professor Bunn tells the Lieutenant that he is a researcher looking for fairies and has found them. The Lieutenant doesn't believe him, and he asks Dr. Fiddle to confirm that fairies do not exist.

As there are no rebels around, the Lieutenant believes he has been tricked. He offers a reward of a thousand guineas to anyone who can identify the person responsible. Professor Bunn admits to writing the letter and asks for the reward. The Lieutenant says that he shall have it, but that he will also be shot for rebellion.

The rebels appear, and the Lieutenant orders their arrest. O'Brien steps forward and insists that if anyone is to be shot, he should be the first. Rosie takes her place at his side, and tells her father that they are in love. The Lieutenant insists that she may only marry a man of royal blood. O'Brien replies that he is descended from Brian Boru, an ancient King of Ireland, which removes the Lieutenant's objection, but the Lieutenant responds that O'Brien will nevertheless be shot for treason.

Professor Bunn, however, points out that all English noblemen nowadays are more than half American, and America is the friend of Ireland. Therefore, the Lieutenant is a friend of the rebels, and it would be absurd to have them shot. The Lieutenant agrees that this is conclusive, and all ends happily.

Musical numbers

*Overture (includes "We don't intend to go to Carrig-Cleena", "Bedad it's for him" and the "Jig") †

;Act I
*1. "Have ye heard the brave news?" (Chorus of Peasants) ‡
*2. "My Friends... I'm descended from Brian Boru" (Terence and Chorus)
*3. "Of Viceroys though we've had" (Murphy and Chorus)
*4. "If you wish to appear as an Irish type" (Bunn and Chorus)
*5. "On the Heights of Glentaun" (Molly, Terence, and Murphy)
*6. "Two is Company" (Rosie, Susan, Terence & Bunn)
*7. ENTRANCE OF LORD LIEUTENANT, COUNTESS, AND CHAPLAIN "I am the Lord Lieutenant, and" (Lord Lieutenant, Countess, and Dr. Fiddle)
*8. "At an early stage of life" (Lord Lieutenant with Rosie, Countess, and Dr. Fiddle)
*9. "When Alfred's friends their king forsook" (Countess) †
*10. "Oh, setting sun you bid the world good-bye" (Rosie) †
*11. "Their courage high you may defy" (Rosie, Susan, Molly, Terence and Bunn)
*12. ENTRANCE OF SOLDIERS "That we're soldiers no doubt you will guess" (Chorus of Soldiers and Girls)
*13. "Now this is the song of the Devonshire Men" (Sergeant and Chorus) †
*14. ENTRANCE OF BUNN "It is past my comprehension.. Many years ago I strode" (Bunn and Molly with Chorus)
*15. "Their fathers fought at Ramillies" (Ensemble)

;Act II
*16. "Is there anyone approachin" (Chorus of Peasant Men with Dan)
*17. "Bedad, it's for him that will always employ" (Chorus of Men) †
*18. "Jig" (Peasants) †
*18a. "Och, the spalpeen! Let him drown!" (Chorus) †
*19. "Oh have you met a man in debt" (Terence and Chorus)
*20. "Twas in Hyde Park, beside the row" (Rosie, Terence, and Chorus)
*21. "I cannot play at love" (Molly, Kathleen, Bunn, Rosie, and Chorus) †
*22. "Oh the age, in which we're living" (Bunn, with Susan) †
*23. "Sing a rhyme" (Kathleen, Terence, Bunn, Susan, and Chorus)
*24. "Listen, hearken my lover" (Rosie, Terence and Murphy) †
*25 "Good-bye my native town" (Murphy) †
*26. "I love you! I love you!" (Molly and Murphy) †
*27. "There was once a little soldier" (Terence with Chorus)
*28. "With a big shillelagh" (Ensemble)

:† – "Number composed entirely by Edward German":‡ – "Number composed entirely by Arthur Sullivan"


External links

* [ "Emerald Isle" at The Gilbert & Sullivan Archive]
* [ "The Emerald Isle" at The Gilbert & Sullivan Discography]
* [ New York Times review of the Broadway production of "Emerald Isle"]
* [ IBDB listing for "Emerald Isle"]

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