Opera Scotland

Yeomen of the Guard 1889Mr R D'Oyly Carte's Opera Company

Read more about the opera Yeomen of the Guard

The cast for the first tour of Yeomen was largely familiar. By the time of the second visit in the autumn, Fred Billington had settled on the role of Wilfred, and sang it throughout his career, but here can also be seen as the Sergeant.

Casts from theatre programmes in Lamb Collection, Dundee City Library.

Additional Scottish tour dates to be confirmed.


The January Visit to Dundee

The Piper o’ Dundee: Wednesday, 23 January  1889     (p46)

Her Majesty’s Theatre - The Yeomen of the Guard

'The Yeomen of the Guard, by Messrs Gilbert and Sullivan, is perhaps best described as an opera, although in many respects the work is as distinct from the comic opera as it is from the grand opera to which we have been accustomed.   The plot of the opera is slight and sketchy, and the incidents are as time-honoured as some of the jokes of Jack Point.   The music is more than musically tuneful, it is artistically rich.

'The company is exceptionally strong, inducing a feeling of regret that the members have not allotted to them more of the work for which they are so eminently qualified.  Mr Herve D’Egville, who is a favourite in Dundee, appearing in the premier part of Lieutenant of the Tower, is as stately as ever, leaving unfortunately most of the singing to the other residents of the Tower.   Mr Charles Conyers is a right gallant and tuneful Colonel Fairfax, singing and acting right bravely.  Sergeant Meryll as portrayed by Mr Fred Billington is a splendid performance.  He is the worthy sergeant to the life, and his grand resonant singing fairly amazed the audience.  Mr Frank Tebbutt as Leonard seems rather light both in make-up and singing for the warrior son of the sergeant.  Mr George Thorne has caught the very point and meaning of the Jack Point of the author, and the mingling of humour and pathos displays his studious conception of the part.  In his singing his tones were rather low for the house.  Mr David Fisher makes a part of Wilfred the jailor, and, lugubrious though he looks, brings life upon the stage.  Mr H Le Maistre has a beautiful voice, which he uses to good purpose in the music of the Yeoman.

'The Elsie Maynard of Miss Cockburn is redolent of sweet lavender.  Her graceful form and birdlike singing brighten the precincts of the Tower while she trills beneath the shadowa of the old walls.  Phoebe Meryll is a fascinating damsel as played by Miss H Crofton, and her singing is quaintly beautiful.  Miss E Cameron is a sprightly Dame Carruthers, the rich intonation of whose singing is specially pleasing.  The dresses and accessories are rich, and the set scene most picturesque.

'The audiences during the week are sure to be large.  The west-end has yet to learn that the successes of London are being produced and highly appreciated in Dundee.

 'In honour of the Govan election, the Yeomen of the Guard, at Her Majesty’s Theatre this week, wear the letters “H.R.” (Home Rule) embroidered in gold on their uniform, The H R is surmounted by the crown.'


News from Down South

Dundee Courier & Argus: 17 April 1889

Yeomen of the Guard Player Seized with Apoplexy

 'While Mr Herve D’Egville, who plays a leading part in the Yeomen of the Guard first provincial company, was lunching at a Birmingham restaurant he was seized with apoplexy, and now lies unconscious at a local hospital.  Mr D’Egville is well known and much liked in Dundee.  His most recent appearances here have been as The Mikado in February, 1887; as Sir Roderic in Ruddigore in September of the same year; and as the Lieutenant of the Tower in The Yeomen of the Guard in January of this year.  His many friends here and in Edinburgh, with which city he is connected, will long for news of his condition, and earnestly wish for his speedy recovery.  So thorough an artiste, and so perfect a gentleman, can ill be spared from the stage.'


The Autumn Return

Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, 17 September 1889   (p4)

Her Majesty’s Theatre - The Yeomen of the Guard

 'An excellent audience assembled last night to enjoy the interesting story and lovely melodies of an opera that seems destined to a lengthened popularity.  That there is a greater approach to romantic opera in The Yeomen of the Guard than in any of the lyrical works with which Mr Gilbert has regaled his generation is true, and it is plain that when he shall so choose he is capable of giving to the stage a work which, when allied to the loftier moods of Sir Arthur Sullivan’s muse, will surpass in vitality all the libretti which the composers of the Victorian era have gemmed with harmony.  But as yet he has not cast off his whimsical habit, and we fancy his admirers are not very sorry for it.  In the dialogue of The Yeomen, and in the lyrics, there is such a combination of keenness, subtlety, delicacy, humour, and good humour, that the saddest of pessimists can hardly fail to find something to smile at.  And skilfully intermingled with all this is the pathos of poor Jack Point’s hopeless love - a pathos that is alike powerful and delicate.  As in all the other collaborations, Sullivan’s music here charmingly illustrates the sentiment of the story.  Tricksy and gay, flowing and full of light and sparkle when required by the lighter lyrics, it acquires a noble distinction when the theme rises above the level of comedy.

'Such a work can only be performed by artists, and now as heretofore Mr Carte sends us a company qualified by skill and earnestness to do every justice to the piece.  Beyond all doubt Jack Point is in the estimation of every audience the hero of the tale.  The poor jester is outwitted, his feelings fester, his heart is lead; but, while his rival triumphs behind the footlights Jack wins the favour of all in front.  A personator of great natural sympathetic power is required for this character, and with this quality Mr George Thorne is largely endowed.  It is a delightful study to watch how spontaneously he glides from the jester’s antic disposition to his graver moods, and to note with what sweetness he paints the tenderness of his love for Elsie.  That she weds a very proper man in Colonel Fairfax is undeniable.  Mr Charles Conyers makes love so gallantly and sings so sweetly that Elsie, in whatever guise he woos her, cannot choose but yield.  Gilbert means she shall be a lovable and winsome maiden, and Miss Cockburn realises this conception vividly.  One jarring note, however, there is in this conception, and that is in the finale, where Elsie laughs aloud at the moan of the merryman moping mum before he falls dead at her feet.  This latter morsel of cynicism might well have been omitted, for an audience likes tenderness all through from a character like Elsie, and the line we have paraphrased suggests the thought that had Fairfax, the better match of the two, not turned up she would have been much content with poor Jack.  When, however, an actress renders her role so gracefully and sings with such captivating sweetness as Miss Cockburn does all is forgiven to the character.

'Then there is Phoebe Meryll, a charming girl, to whom Gilbert decrees a most unlovable husband.  She is a coquette, it is true, but, as her father says, a good girl, and it is her goodness and her piquant humour that Miss Haidee Crofton delineates with charming tact.  The grace and refinement with which she sings her first aria wins her the goodwill of all hearts.  Shadbolt was made very very grim by Fred Billington, so far as make-up and gruffness of tone were concerned, but he had grasped the humorous meaning of the character thoroughly and pleased the audience immensely by his originality in the famous scena, “Were I thy bride.”  Miss Cameron again gave a truthful interpretation of the amorous housekeeper, singing her music admirably and making love to Sergeant Meryll with nice touches of humour.  And Mr Marler was such a kind, genial Sergeant that Dame Carruthers was to be excused for her machinations.  Leonard Meryll’s is but a small part, but Mr Walter Fisher looked it well, and gave it importance by manly acting and tasteful singing.  The Lieutenant of the Tower was once more personated by Mr D’Egville with a quiet, grave humour in perfect keeping with the scenes in which he takes part.  The largely augmented orchestra and the powerful chorus were kept well in hand by the skilled baton of Mr P Halton.


The Piper o’ Dundee : Wednesday, 18 September  1889   (p480)

Echoes of the Week - The Yeomen of the Guard

'For the benighted Dundonian who has not as yet taken the opportunity of hearing and seeing The Yeomen of the Guard I have the most heart-felt pity.  It is seldom that an opportunity of enjoying scenes and songs which are things of beauty and joys for ever equal to that to be found at Her Majesty’s Theatre this week is within the reach of all, and those who fail to do so have, as I have said, my most profound commiseration.

'The Yeomen of the Guard is to opera what George Eliot’s or Meredith’s works are to the ordinary novel.  Amidst the beauties of the scenes and sounds there is an undertone which sounds varied themes to minds attuned to listen.

'The company fits the different characters with a nicety finer than that of the most delicate mechanism.  There is genius in a glance, a tone, a gesture.  To paint Elsie Maynard would require a Noel Paton; to describe her singing is beyond the pencil.  She leaves the lark in the mists while she soars in the ether; and Phoebe, little Phoebe, is a veritable little witch, who ought to have been allied to the Sorcerer rather than that artistic discord Shadbolt; and Dame Carruthers wins other hearts than that of the Sergeant as she sings of the grim old Tower.

'Then Jack Point, why he must have been brought out of the dim old past.  He does not act; he is the strolling jester, with his pretty wit.  The Colonel is a brave man, whose port and voice make one wish for but a glimpse of that old time chivalry.  The Lieutenant, the Sergeant, and Leonard, his son (who must have belonged to the Light Infantry), are all worthily filled and worthy remembrance.  If any friend of mine misses this treat, call me friend no longer.'


Dundee Advertiser : Friday, 20 September  1889    (p5)

Her Majesty’s Theatre

'The attractiveness of The Yeomen of the Guard is suffering none of the diminution that attends familiarity.  Larger audiences than enjoyed the piece in January have flocked to the Theatre nightly, and the efforts of the various performers have been rewarded with enthusiastic approbation.  There are, indeed, few comic operas that repay repeated hearings half so well as The Yeomen of the Guard, and we fancy that the growing audiences are greatly made up of folks who come again and again to enjoy the interesting story, to be charmed with the sweet, winsome music, to laugh like Rabelais in his easy chair at the quaint philosophy of life which poor Jack Point sets forth in his merry humours, or at his bidding to “drop a tear or two” at his sad fate.  The opera is one which children will enjoy, and we have no doubt many will be taken to the matinee Mr M’Farland has arranged to be given to-morrow afternoon at two o’ clock.'

Performance Cast

Phoebe Meryll Sergeant Meryll's Daughter

Haidee Crofton

Sergeant Meryll of the Yeomen of the Guard

Fred Billington (Jan)

George Marler (Sep)

Dame Carruthers Housekeeper to the Tower

Elsie Cameron

Leonard Meryll Sergeant Meryll's Son

Frank Tebbutt (Jan)

Walter Fisher (Sep)

Sir Richard Cholmondeley Lieutenant of the Tower

Hervet d' Egville

Colonel Fairfax under sentence of death

Charles Conyers

First Yeoman

Mr H Le Maistre

Wilfred Shadbolt Head Jailer and Assistant Tormentor

David Fisher jnr (Jan)

Fred Billington (Sep)

Jack Point a Strolling Jester

George Thorne

Elsie Maynard a Strolling Singer

Margaret Cockburn

Kate Dame Carruthers' Niece

Annie Harding

Performance DatesYeomen of the Guard 1889

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

21 Jan, 19.30 22 Jan, 19.30 23 Jan, 19.30 24 Jan, 19.30 25 Jan, 19.30 26 Jan, 14.00 26 Jan, 19.00 16 Sep, 19.30 17 Sep, 19.30 18 Sep, 19.30 19 Sep, 19.30 20 Sep, 19.30 21 Sep, 14.00 21 Sep, 19.00

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