May 19, 2011

The Lily of Killarney

Romantic opera in three acts: Text by [John] Oxenford and [Dion] Boucicault, founded on the latter's romantic drama, "The Colleen Bawn." Music by Sir Julius Benedict. First production at Covent Garden, London, February 8, 1862.

Sir Julius Benedict, one of the most accomplished musicians of his time, and an intimate friend of the great Webster [Carl Maria von Weber?], is now chiefly remembered by his Lily of Killarney, popular thirty years ago, but now almost forgotten.

The best known number is the famous duet, "The Moon Has Raised Her Lamp Above," sung by Danny and Hardress in Act I as they are about to cross the lake to the Colleen Bawn.

The Moon Has Raised Her Lamp Above, sung by John McCormack and Reinald Werrenrath:

Victor 3024, recorded April 9, 1914, Camden, New Jersey

Eily O'Connor, the Colleen Bawn (soprano)
Anne Chute, an heiress (soprano)
Mrs. Cregan, a widow (contralto)
Hardress Cregan, her son (tenor)
Myles na Coppaleen (tenor)
Corrigan (bass)
Father Tom (bass)
Danny Mann, Cregan's boatman (baritone)

Time and Place: Killarney, Ireland; nineteenth century

The rise of the curtain reveals a party of Hardress Cregan's friends enjoying the hospitality of the hall at Torc Cregan. The Cregan estates are heavily encumbered, Corrigan, a "middle-man," holding the mortgage. Corrigan calls upon Mrs. Cregan while her son and his friends are absent, and suggests, with an eye to the settlement of his own account, that the family fortunes might be improved by marrying young Cregan to the heiress, Anne Chute. As an alternative, he hints that he would be willing to accept Mrs. Cregan's hand, but his proposal is scornfully refused by the still attractive widow. Corrigan then informs Mrs. Cregan that her son has an affair with Eily, the Colleen Bawn. The widow is much distressed to hear that her son is associating with a peasant girl, and promises to turn his affections toward the heiress.

The next scene shows the cottage of Eily O'Connor, who lives there under the protection of the good old priest, Father Tom. Hardress, who has been convinced by his mother that it would be to his advantage to marry Anne, enters and tries to persuade Eily to surrender her marriage certificate — for the couple are already married — but the girl refuses, having promised Father Tom never to part with her "marriage lines." Hardress leaves in a fury, swearing never to see her again.

In Act II Cregan, though filled with remorse because of his cruel desertion of the Colleen Bawn, is nevertheless paying suit to Anne. Corrigan is meanwhile pressing his unwelcome attentions upon Mrs. Cregan. Danny Mann, devoted to Hardress, and hoping to help him in his troubles, persuades Mrs. Cregan to give him one of her son's gloves. Danny gives the glove to Eily and tells her that Hardress has sent it as a sign that he needs her. Danny then takes her to a water cave and demands the certificate of her marriage. When she refuses to give it up, he throws her into the water. Myles, however, happens to be in the cave, and mistaking Danny for an otter in the twilight, shoots him, then perceiving the Colleen Bawn in the water, dives in and rescues her.

In the last act Hardress is about to marry the heiress, when Corrigan, angry because of the slights he has received from Cregan and his mothr, causes the young man's arrest on a charge of murdering Eily. Myles, however, appears with the living Eily, and a deathbed confession from Danny that he had attempted the murder. When Hardress sees Eily he realizes that he loves his wife, and the young couple are reconciled, while the heiress good-naturedly steps aside and even bestows a fortune on the happy pair! At least so the libretto says, and who should doubt it?

The Victrola Book of the Opera, by Samuel Holland Rous, 1919 (5th revised edition; first published 1912), Victor Talking Machine Company, Camden, New Jersey.