The Yeomen of the Guard, Gilbert & Sullivan

Title The Yeomen of the Guard or The Merryman and his Maid
English Title
Composer Arthur Sullivan
Librettists William Gilbert
Language English, Dutch translation available
Genre Light opera. Two acts
First performance 1 October 1888, Savoy Theatre, London
Time of action Sixteenth century
Place of action Tower Green, London
Main parts
  • Colonel Fairfax, under sentence of death, tenor
  • Sergeant Meryll, of the Yeomen of the Guard, baritone
  • Leonard Meryll, his son, tenor
  • Jack Point, a strolling jester, baritone or tenor
  • Wilfred Shadbolt, head jailer, bass
  • Sir Richard Cholmondeley, lieutenant of the Tower, baritone or tenor
  • Elsie Maynard, a strolling singer, soprano
  • Phoebe Meryll, Meryll’s daughter, mezzo-soprano
  • Dame Carruthers, housekeeper to the Tower, contralto
Prominence of chorus Large
Orchestra 2 flutes, 1 oboe, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, 3 trombones, timpani/percussion, strings
Special demands The work contains passages for double chorus. Performing companies should have a considerable number of men.
Full score and orchestral parts Available
Level It is one of the more taxing Gilbert & Sullivan works, but experienced amateurs should be able to tackle it.
Length About 2½ hours. Two acts.

In this work the composer rises to unprecedented heights. Splendid numbers for chorus and double-chorus (a riot, a near-beheading, a chorus for ladies scoffing at the Yeomen, a wedding etc.) are alternated by ensembles and solos that bear witness of the composer’s genius (a spinning-wheel song, the two ballads of the condemned man, magnificent coloraturas, a dreamy madrigal etc.)


An executioner in love, a jester whose jests are unappreciated, a condemned man who escapes; self-sacrifice, deceit, unanswered love and blackmail – such are the ingredients of this unique opera.

Costumes Sixteenth-century costumes, beef-eaters’ uniforms (at least twelve, for four-part male chorus)
Link Wikipedia

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Tags: Gilbert | Sullivan | Knoppers