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HIGHWAYMAN LOVE A romantic light opera in two acts Book by F.R. Bell: Lyrics by Harold Ellis: Music by W.H. Bullock FROM earliest Elizabethan times there had run a legend in the Yorkshire House of Lovel which told as follows: 'Lovel's line from sore distress Rescued was by Royal BESS. When its doom is written plain BESS shall save the House again.' How, in the romantic days when George the First was king, young Sir Harry, latest heir of Lovel's line, found his fortunes suddenly imperilled by a kinsman's malice; how his betrothed, the fair Bess Mannering, believing herself to be the 'Bess' foreshadowed by the prophecy, renounced her happiness to shield her lover; and how Destiny, in the guise of a chivalrous highwayman, intervened in the nick of time to 'save the House' - this is the central motif of the opera, through which the 'Lovel Legend' threads its way to a surprising, but at the same time literal, fulfilment STORY ACT I LOVEL COURT, near York, is en fête one May afternoon, 1720, for the coming of age of Sir Harry Lovel, whose widowed mother, Lady Lovel, is giving a reception to the tenantry. Their junketings are to conclude with a masquerade, the county guests including General Mannering, Governor of York, and his daughter Bess, with whom Sir Harry is in love. Bess's hand is also sought by the young heir's uncle, Sir Jeffrey Digby, Bart., a shifty financier, who till now aided by Obadiah Blunt, his notary, and Diggory, the steward-has had control of the Lovel revenues. At the moment he is promoting a swindling concern called 'Bubbles, Ltd.,' in which the credulous Governor has been induced to invest all his wealth. An escort of Grenadiers, under Sergeant Mustard, heralds the arrival at the fête of the Governor, his daughter, and Sophy, her maid. Sophy is captivated by the dashing sergeant, much to the chagrin of her father, Solomon Smug, head watchman of York, who desires to see her wed Dr. Flute, the bashful Minster organist. The Governor announces a reward of 1,000 guineas for the capture of a highwayman, one Denis O'Neill, and proclaims it an offence against the realm to give him shelter. Two of the company-John Braddlum, the village innkeeper, and Isabel, a gipsy girl-are in league with O'Neill (who is loved by the gipsy), and when, a little later, the highwayman unexpectedly appears on the scene, Isabel's alarm for his safety is great. This feeling turns to jealousy when Bess, surprising the two together, takes the stranger for a guest and welcomes him to Lovel Court. Sir Harry's entry causes an awkward situation, but O'Neill averts discovery by telling the lovers that the elusive highwayman is already in their midst, posing as a guest (which is true enough), and he gaily accepts Bess's suggestion that, to expose the intruder, he (O'Neill) shall attend the masquerade 'disguised as a highwayman himself. Unluckily for Denis he has been recognized by Obadiah, who informs Sir Jeffrey. To vent his spite upon Sir Harry, now Bess's accepted lover, the baronet holds over her a threat of publicly accusing Sir Harry of harbouring the highwayman unless she will renounce her lover in his (Sir Jeffrey's) favour. Invoking the 'Lovel Legend,' he persuades the distressed girl that she is the 'Bess' destined to 'save the House,' and eventually-to spare both Sir Harry and her father, whose duty it will be to arrest her lover - she yields. It is now evening. Before all the masqueraders Sir Jeffrey triumphantly proposes for Mistress Mannering's