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MERRIE ENGLAND Music by Edward German: Book and Lyrics by Basil Hood Savoy Theatre, London - 2 April, 1902 Revised version by Dennis Arundell - Sadler's Wells, 10 August, 1960 SYNOPSIS (Elizabethan England) This well known comic opera is set in the reign of Queen Elizabeth 1. The famous courtier, Sir Waiter Raleigh, loves Bessie Throckmorton, one of the Queen's Ladies in Waiting. Bessie is frightened that a misplaced letter from Raleigh will fail into the hands of the Queen, who would be displeased at the association. Raleigh's rival, the Earl of Essex, is given the letter by Jill-All-Alone, who is persecuted by the local people who think she is a witch. A forester begs the Queen to protect Jill. However, when Essex hands Elizabeth the letter, the Queen is so incensed that she orders Bessie's imprisonment, Raleigh's banishment and Jill's death by burning. Elizabeth retracts each sentence when Essex halts a threat to her life through his exposure of Dr Lopez, the Queen's Portuguese physician, who is planning to poison her. This adaptation was first seen at Sadlers' Wells in 1960 and has the effect of increasing the dramatic realism and allowing the music to give greater unity. The original version is available if required. STORY Queen Elizabeth I is on the throne, and today is May Day. The curtain rises to display a scene on the banks of the Thames. The citizens of Windsor are enacting their May Day ceremony. The Chorus welcomes the May Queen. To guard her throne she calls for the two men who have shown themselves the best marksmen: Long Tom and Big Ben, foresters, stand forth. They are of one mind - except that Long Tom is in love with Jill-All-Alone, whom Big Ben, along with the other folk of Windsor, considers is a witch. Jill-All-Alone enters; a wild but pathetic creature. She has no proper home but lives in the forest. Tthe chorus greet her with loathing calling her a witch! There enters a stranger from London. Walter Wilkins is an actor and a member of Shakespeare's company. But Wilkins thinks that no play is too tragic to be enlivened by song and dance - which, as he explains, is where he and Shakespeare disagree. Wilkins performs a hornpipe to illustrate his point. Sir Walter Raleigh, entering, discourages talk of witchcraft. He leads a drinking song. A witch-hunt sets off after Jill-All-Alone, but she escapes. The May Queen, Raleigh, Wilkins, Long Tom and Kate (who plays no part in the actual drama) are left to sing a quintet Essex looks on as Long Tom instructs Walter Wilkins on the ceremony for the arrival of Queen Elizabeth I Bessie Throckmorton, a lady-in-waiting to the Queen, enters alone. She has lost a love-letter from Raleigh. If found, it may rouse the jealousy of the Queen, who is herself in love with Raleigh and who does not know that Raleigh and Bessie are in love with each other. Bessie and Raleigh hope that they will eventually be able to enjoy their love in a rustic retreat. The Earl of Essex enters. He is jealous of the favour Raleigh enjoys with the Queen. Jill-All-Alone is caught as a witch. Long Tom defends her, with a courage that prompts Essex to extol the virtues of the Yeomen of England. Jill has found Bessie's missing letter and gives it to Essex. With majesty, Queen Elizabeth enters. 'God save Elizabeth' sings the chorus in welcome.