Operas, Musicals, and Pantomime 2

The novel Maid Marian (see Fictional Books) by Thomas Love Peacock was converted into the comic opera Maid Marian: or, The Huntress of Arlingford. It was performed at Covent Garden for Christmas entertainment at the end of 1822. This opera proved ‘all the rage’ in the 1820s and was translated into German and French as well as being produced in New York.(1) Robin Hood and Richard Coeur de Lion was a comical Robin Hood pantomine apparently from 1846, in which J. H. Stocqueler had a hand. This was a companion to his novel of 1849, Maid Marian, or, the Forest Queen (see Fictional Books).(2) In 1858 the Theatre Royal Manchester saw a ‘New and Original Grand Christmas Pantomime’  with Marian and Robin played by men, but Alan by a woman – Jack a Lanthorn and the fairies provided other female attractions.(3)The English composer George Alexander Macfarren wrote a string of operas in the 1860s, his most memorable being Robin Hood: an Opera in Three Acts (1860), first produced at Her Majesty’s Theatre, London, (Libretto by John Oxenford). The Grove Dictionary of Music notes that ‘Macfarren’s handling of the orchestra is bright, uncluttered and masculine; his brass writing is notably good, being less garish than Wallace’s and more confident than Sullivan’s’.(4) Sir Francis Burnand’s Robin Hood or the Forester’s Fate, a pantomime of 1862, is a fairly conventional run-through of events derived from Thomas Love Peacock and Pierce Egan.(5) In 1871 E. L. Blanchard went to see the pantomime with the silly title of Robin Hood, or The Maid that was Arch and the Youth that was Archer (Scott and Howard, 1891, II, p. 185).(6) Also in 1871 and then again in 1872, The Merrie Men of Sherwood Forest, or Forest Days in the Olden Time, a pastoral operetta in three acts, was performed in concert by the Doncaster Musical Society. The words and music were written by W. H. Birch and the work was published by John Blockley of Argyll Street, London.(7) The German composer Albert Dietrich (1829–1908) wrote the romantic Opera Robin Hood, op. 34. It was first performed in Frankfurt am Main in 1879. A new production of this opera was performed at the Theater Erfurt on march 20th, 2011.(8) The American production Robin Hood: A Comic Opera was composed in Chicago during the winter of 1888-1889, with Reginald De Koven (music), Harry B. Smith (lyrics) and Clement Scott (lyrics of ‘Oh Promise Me’). The story is based on the Robin Hood ‘legend’ during the reign of Richard I. It was first performed at the Chicago Opera House in 1890, and was produced by The Ideal Opera Company also known as the Bostonians. The opera opened in New York at the Knickerbocker Theatre in 1900, and was produced in London at the Prince of Wales Theatre in 1891 with a new title, Maid Marian. In 2004 the opera was produced again by The Ohio Light Opera and this was based on a new critical edition that was comissioned from Quade Winter, based on the composer’s original manuscripts in the Library of Congress. There was another operetta by Reginald De Koven in 1901, entitled Maid Marian.(9) Michael Tippett composed the ballad opera Robin Hood in 1934. It was first performed in that year by the local villagers, miners, and students at the work camps. Tippett was hired to organize the musical life of a number of work camps for unemployed miners in North Yorkshire during the great depression. The score remains unpublished, however Tippett later used an expanded version of the overture as the finale to his 1948 Suite in D major (For the Birthday of Prince Charles).(10) Lionel Bart’s musical ‘Twang!’ was a 1965 West End production with actors from the ‘Carry On’ films; James Booth as Robin, Bernard Bresslaw as Little John and Barbara Windsor as Delphina, a version of Marian. ‘Twang!’ was inherently pantomime, but it lacked both the magic and the romance, and it wandered only between straight farce and ironic treatment of the modern musical. This production received savage reviews and closed within a week.(11) The Bristol Old Vic pantomime of 1984 (written by Dennis Nielson) had the title ‘Robin Hood: The Truth Behind the Green Tights’ with the central figure of ‘Albert Ross,’ who dismisses the myth of Robin as mere gentry self-indulgence: ‘Well, he’s not like us, is he? Eh? He may profess to represent the views of the common man, the ordinary man in the field, but he’s one of them, isn’t he? He’s gentry … Don’t tell me he goes prancing about in that forest for my sake! It’s the green tights he likes, and the singing!’ Albert sings:

Though I don’t mind the singing
I’m not sure about the tights.
I know the outlaw’s code,
I always will endorse it,
Rob the rich, give to the poor,
And always wear your corset.(12)

The 1993 public theatrical domain production of ‘Robin, Prince of Sherwood’, with music and lyrics by Rick Fenn and Peter Howarth, has  Robin as young, vigorous, and loud-voiced. The outlaw leader is billed as ‘the hero that lives in you all’, and he is introduced by a repetitive chant of ‘Call him Robin Hood’. This production did go on tour after staying in London for eight weeks, where it reportedly lost the half million it cost.(13) ‘Robin Hood, The Musical’ (2007?) offers a geniune throw-back to the classic age of American Musical Theater. Memorable tunes and a classic character in a classic stuggle, accompanied by a whole lot of dancing and singing (Rantone Productions Las Vegas). Written by Tony Cobb and Karrol Cobb.(14) Frank Schwemmer’s opera ‘Robin Hood’ (2007) had it’s world premier at the Komische Oper, Berlin in 2008. The comic theme has Daniel’s parents having a row yet again. The only thing Daniel can do is switch on the computer and play a game developed by his father – ‘Robin Hood’.(15) ‘Hood The Musical’ (2010?) is a UK based musical and fully available to licence by schools, youth and amateur theatre. Written and produced by Andy Brown & Steve Williamson, the musical is more like a modern pop/rock musical than a conventional theatrical piece.(16) The pantomime of Robin Hood was performed at the Norwich Theatre Royal as part of Norfolk’s 2009/2010 pantomime season. Danny Seward, best known as Joe Beresford from ITV drama ‘Where The Heart Is’, played Robin Hood.(17) The Royal Canadian Theatre Company headed by Artistic Director Ellie King produced ‘Robin Hood’ (2009/2010). King continued her 20 year success with British Pantomime in this production starring Alan Cedargreen as Dame Gertie Goodbrew, Michael Roberds (New Addams Family) as the Sheriff of Nottingham and Mandy Tulloch as Robin Hood.(18)

1. See J. B. Priestley, Thomas Love Peacock (London, 1966 edn.), pp. 59-61.

2. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, pp. 191-4, 195, 199.

3. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, pp. 194-195.

4. See Henry C. Banister, George Alexander Macfarren: his life, works and influence, London: George Bell and Sons, 1891.

5. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, pp. 195-196.

6. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, p. 195.

7. See Robin Hood in Music, an article by Philip L. Scowcroft.

8. See Albert Dietrich, (Translated by Dora E. Hecht, 2007 reprint).

9. See Three Centuries of American Music, Martha Furman Schleifer (editor), G.K. Hall & Co. 1990, Vol. 5, pages xxvii, 106-330; Music and Romance, Hazel Gertrude Kinscella, pages 385-386.

10. See Michael Tippett, by Meirion Bowen, 1983, London.

11. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, p. 254.

12. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, pp. 254-55-57.

13. Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw, Stephen Knight, pp. 257-58.

14. See myspace.com/robinhoodthemusical

15. See boosey.com/pages/opera/moredetails

16. See hoodthemusical.com

17. See news.bbc.co.uk/local/norfolk/hi/things_to_do/

18. Pantomime (en-academic.com)