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The Sunday Opera: "Robin Hood," a British Opera from 1860 by George Alexander Macfarren

In the past, we’ve looked at a few British operas on The Sunday Opera including “Lurline” and “Dorothy.” This week’s program (6/11 3:00 p.m.), looks at another piece, this one from 1860 by a composer said to best embody British national music, George Alexander Macfarren.

The opera is “Robin Hood,” the 18th of Macfarren’s 24 operas. The libretto is by one of the best librettists of the day, John Oxenford, and the performance to which we’ll be listening needed to be resurrected and augmented into a performing edition that includes modern instruments, and that performing edition was completed by Valerie Langfield.

The storyline basically follows the well-known tale. Robin Hood (Nicky Spense) in his alter ego as Locksley is in love with Marian (Kay Jordan) who here is the daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, Sir Reginald d’Bracy (Georg Hulbert). The Sheriff is not against the match as long as Robin can prove himself as a marksman at the fair the following day. At that point, they’re interrupted by Hugo (Louis Hurst), a debt collector who asks for the sheriff’s protection on his way back to the castle. With that, the sheriff retires and leaves Robin and Marian to once again declare their affections for each other.

With the help of Allan-a-Dale (Andrew Mackenzie-Wicks), who happens to be in love with Marian’s attendant (Magdalen Ashman), Robin is able to intercept Hugo and his collected taxes in Sherwood Forest.

Of course, Robin is recognized by Hugo during the fair, and he is captured, but Marian comes to his rescue and rallies the Merry Men to come to Robin’s aid. The opera comes to a quick close when the sheriff receives what he believes to be Robin’s death warrant, only to find a full pardon from King Richard the Lionheart if Robin swears fealty to the king, which he happily does. With the pardon, the sheriff sees no reason but to allow Marian and Robin to marry, and with the crisis averted, a happy ending is had by all.

Other members of the company include John Molly as Little John and Alex Knox as Much, the miller’s son who plays a role in Robin’s capture. They’re joined by the John Powell Singers and the Victorian Opera Chorus and Orchestra with Ronald Corp conducting.

After the opera, host Michael Kownacky will be featuring more music by British composers. Under consideration currently is music by Ralph Vaughan Williams and Edward Elgar, however, anything is possible, and we may just have a surprise on Sunday. You’ll have to tune in to see who made the final cut!

Michael is program host and host of the WWFM Sunday Opera, Sundays at 3 pm, and co-host of The Dress Circle, Sundays at 7 pm.
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