By Sir W. S. Gilbert & Sir A. S. Sullivan

THE YEOMEN OF THE GUARD is the nearest amongst all of the Gilbert & Sullivan operettas to Grand Opera in its style.  It is a tale set in Tudor England in the Tower of London.  It is the story of how a Colonel Fairfax, unjustly under sentence of death, is freed in time by his friends and hides himself under a false identity amongst the Yeomen Warders of the Tower.  However just before he is freed and while still expecting to be executed, he marries a strolling player, Elsie Maynard.  The marriage is only expected to be a very temporary marriage of convenience to avoid his estate going to the man responsible for him being in the Tower in the first place.  Elsie’s companion the jester Jack Point, who hopes to marry Elsie himself, only agrees to the marriage on the basis that Elsie will almost immediately be free to wed him – and on a consideration of an hundred crowns!  However once Colonel Fairfax is free and masquerading as someone else, he is able to woo Elsie and test her fidelity to her new husband ‘Colonel Fairfax’ (himself), whom she has never actually seen because she was blindfolded during the wedding ceremony.  When Colonel Fairfax is apparently shot trying to swim the river, Elsie finds herself free to accept Fairfax’s proposal of marriage under his assumed name Leonard Meryll.  Then the real Leonard Meryll arrives with the Colonel’s delayed reprieve and Elsie is initially heartbroken because she thinks that she cannot now marry her ‘Leonard’ because she is married to Fairfax.  However it all ends happily for Elsie and Colonel Fairfax when Elsie realises that it is her ‘Leonard’ that she has actually married.  However, Jack Point, now heartbroken, collapses on stage and is left for dead.  Despite the somewhat sombre nature of the plot, Gilbert manages to work in some of his greatest comic scenes while Sullivan manages to produce some of his most wonderfully singable music.

'Yeomen' was first performed at the Savoy Theatre in London on 3rd October, 1888. The original run was 423 performances.

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