The Yeomen of the Guard

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Performed 2004, 1968, 1960, 1947.

The Story of the Opera
          The Yeomen of the Guard (or, The Merryman and his Maid)

Our particular intrigue centres on Colonel Fairfax, who has been charged with sorcery and sentenced to die this evening.
Act 1 As the curtain rises, Phoebe Meryll, daughter of the Yeoman Sergeant, confesses her love for Fairfax to her "sour faced admirer" Wilfred Shadbolt, the Head Jailer. Phoebe hopes the Colonel will be reprieved before his sentence can be carried out. With great ceremony, the Yeomen enter. Together with Dame Carruthers, housekeeper to the Tower, they tell of their pride and devotion to the old fortress. Sgt. Meryll describes his indebtedness to Col. Fairfax. With Phoebe and his son Leonard, newly arrived to join the Yeomen, Meryll hatches a plot to hide Fairfax until his reprieve arrives. Enter Fairfax under guard, being transferred into solitary confinement in preparation for his execution. He explains to Sgt. Meryll and Lieut. Cholmondely how the sorcery charge was brought against him by a rascally relative, who will inherit his estate if he dies unmarried. The Lieutenant agrees to help Fairfax thwart this scheme by finding him a wife. Right on cue, a group of players appears, led by jester Jack Point and singer Elsie Maynard. After entertaining the crowd, they are rescued from its rowdier members by the Yeomen. The Lieutenant learns of Elsie's dire financial plight and offers her a handsome sum for a brief marriage to Col. Fairfax. Though Point is in love with Elsie, the assurance of Fairfax's imminent death quells his objections. The Lieutenant also hires Point as his personal jester. While this is going on, Phoebe wheedles the keys to Fairfax's cell from Wilfred. Sgt. Meryll releases him, dresses him in a Yeoman's uniform, and introduces him to the Yeomen as his son Leonard. The time for the execution arrives, and all are assembled. Two Yeomen are sent to escort the prisoner to the block, but they find an empty cell. News of the escape leads to wild excitement. Point is in despair, and Elsie, distraught at the change in her situation, faints as the curtain falls on Act I.

Act II opens with the Yeomen confessing their failure to find the escaped prisoner. Dame Carruthers and the crowd deride them for their ineptitude. Point befriends Wilfred, and they concoct a ruse to make the people believe Fairfax died while trying to escape from the Tower. Revealing to Sgt. Meryll and Fairfax (still disguised as Leonard) what they overheard Elsie say in her sleep as they nursed her back to health, Dame Carruthers and her niece Kate let Fairfax know that his mysterious bride is none other than Elsie, to his great delight. Discharging a shot out of sight, Wilfred and Point execute their ruse. The crowd rushes in and hails Wilfred as a hero. With Fairfax supposedly dead, Point tries to convince Elsie to marry him, but Fairfax (as Leonard) woos and wins her for himself -- leaving both Point and Phoebe in despair. Even though Fairfax's reprieve finally arrives, Phoebe has let slip the plot to shield him from the headsman. Wilfred and Dame Carruthers seize upon this information to blackmail Phoebe and Sgt. Meryll into marriage. But Fairfax can finally reveal his true identity to Elsie, to her great delight. Resolving the tangled plots and counterplots leaves only Jack Point with nowhere to turn. Amid the general rejoicing, he pours out his sorrow and collapses as the final curtain falls.