Opera Scotland

Boatswain's Mate The Boatswain's Mate; The Bosun's Mate

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Ethel Smyth (born Marylebone, London, 23 April 1858; died Woking, 9 May 1944)




Story by W W Jacobs (1863-1943).



First Performance: London (Shaftesbury Theatre), 28 January 1916.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 17 November 1923.



The Boatswain's Mate was the first of Smyth's operas to be launched in Britain. However it had been accepted for performance in Germany, but the outbreak of war made such a thing impossible.

William Wymark Jacobs was a popular writer, particularly of humoroous short stories about the adventures enjoyed by sailors on dry land. The plot of The Boatswain's Mate fits neatly into that pattern.



Harry Benn, ex-boatswain (tenor)

Ned Travers, ex-soldier (baritone)

Mrs Waters, Landlady of 'The Beehive' (soprano)

Mary Ann, a servant girl (burlesque actress)

Policeman (bass)


Plot Summary

Mrs Waters is a widow with no intention of marrying again. Harry, a regular at her country pub, has proposed to her five times and always been rejected. She goes to the post office, leaving him in charge briefly. During her absence, Travers arrives, mistaking Harry for the landlord. Once his mistake is explained, he and Harry become close friends. Harry now dreams up a scheme to persuade the landlady to accept him. Travers will pretend to burgle the pub that night, Harry will come to the rescue, problem solved. He gives Travers a note explaining the plot in case he should have trouble with the police.

That night the scheme is put into effect, but Ned makes too much noise going upstairs. Mrs Waters emerges from her bedroom with a lamp and shotgun. Ned hides in a cupboard, and she locks him in. He begs to be released, explaining the plot, and when she lets him out she is able to read Harry's note. She and Ned now get their revenge. She discharges her gun, and when Harry runs in to the rescue she announces calmly that she has shot a burglar. She orders Harry to go and dig a grave. Harry is appalled, and goes to give himself up to the police. Once Mrs Waters convinces the constable that no-one is dead, she is left to come to a mutually satisfactory arrangement with Ned.

The Cast

Harry Benn
Mary Ann
 a servant girl
Mrs Waters
 Landlady of 'The Beehive'
Ned Travers

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