The Warlock - Libretto by Alfred Smythe
Haddon Hall, An Original Light English Opera, opened at London's Savoy Theatre on 24 September 1892. Music was composed by the famous Arthur Sullivan, with libretto by Sydney Grundy. Haddon Hall was a success in its day and has been kept alive since by the force of Sullivan's music.
The Grundy Haddon Hall story is perhaps, of all versions, the most removed from historical accuracy and from authenticity of the accepted legend. It is prefaced by a note that the clock of Time has been put forward a century to the time of the Cromwell government, and other liberties have been taken with history. The protagonists are Royalists and Puritans. In an unusual twist, George Vernon and John Manners, as Royalists, are nominally on the same side.
Only three historical figures survive: George Vernon, Dorothy Vernon and John Manners. Lady Vernon is the first wife of George Vernon brought back to life. Gone is Dorothy's sister Margaret, to be replaced by George Vernon's allusion to: my son my only son who died fighting for his country, on the sea. Introduced is the fictional cousin Rupert Vernon, a professed Roundhead, who supports the Parliamentary cause in opposition to the Royalists.
Rupert lays claim to the Haddon Hall estates. Sir George believes that the parliament is likely to rule for Rupert and therefore favors him as the husband for Dorothy. This marriage puts an end to doubts and questions that have troubled me, and would be grateful [pleasing] to the parliament, which loves him none too well. The plot foundation of Grundy's Haddon Hall is seen to have no historical nor legendary basis.
Present in the libretto is the principled& stance of John Manners; this serves to confuse the John - Dorothy love story. Sir George will remove his objection to John and take his chance with parliament if Manners will eschew the Royalist cause. If he would sheath that sword, if he would only pay decent respect to parliament. But Dorothy would rather lose Haddon Hall than have Manners compromise his Royalist beliefs: He were a traitor and not worth my love!
No one has previously considered where Grundy may have gotten the ideas for these unusual plot points. This editor became aware of a reference to a controversy between Alfred Smythe and Grundy, where Grundy may have appropriated ideas from Smythe's The Warlock for use in Haddon Hall. Smythe was an Irish poet of some note, and with composer Edgar Little, created an entirely new and original romantic comedy opera.
The Warlock opened at Dublin's Queen's Royal Theatre on 1 February 1892. The setting is England at the time of the Cromwell government. A Royalist Lord resides in his castle with his beautiful daughter. The maid longs to be engaged to a handsome Cavalier. However Rupert, a Roundhead in Cromwell's army, is also in love with her. The Earl has no objection to the Cavalier; however the Earl would be in grave peril if the Roundhead did not succeed in his suit with the young maid. Also showing up is a traveling pedlar who introduces himself by means of a longish ditty. Thus are the main Act I plot points of The Warlock.
The summary of the previous paragraph applies equally well to Act I of Haddon Hall. In both operas, the threat from Rupert is removed when Charles II is installed as King and the Lord retains his possessions.
The Warlock has been included in the book Three Musical Plays. A printed copy of the book may be purchased at www.LULU.com/shop
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