Sheet music cover
|Basis||Rory O'Moore by Samuel Lover|
Eileen is a comic opera (sometimes described as a musical) with music by Victor Herbert and lyrics and book by Henry Blossom, based loosely on the 1835 novel Rory O'Moore by Herbert's grandfather, Samuel Lover. Set in 1798, the story concerns an Irish revolutionary arrested by the British for treason. Eileen, his nobly born sweetheart, helps him to escape by disguising him as a servant.
After two Cleveland performances at the Colonial Theatre on January 1–2, 1917 under the name of Hearts of Erin, the musical moved on to Boston, changing its name to Eileen. It then opened at the Shubert Theatre on March 19, 1917 and ran for only 64 performances. It was produced by Joe Weber, formerly of the comedy duo Weber and Fields. It then toured, but a fire destroyed its sets and costumes three months into the tour. Because of its short initial run, the show was rarely revived until 1997, when it was produced and recorded by the Ohio Light Opera. However, its hit song "Thine Alone" was frequently recorded.
Herbert was eager to write an "Irish" musical to celebrate the land of his birth. His score was well received by the critics, but the libretto received some harsh reviews. Alexander Woollcott wrote: "Mr Blossom [must have] gathered his material and atmosphere by reading for quite half an hour in some public library."
Roles and original cast
- Eileen Mulvaney, niece of Lady Maude (soprano) – Grace Breen
- Captain Barry O’Day, a fine Irish Rebel (tenor) – Walter Scanlan
- Lady Maude Estabrooke, Eileen's Aunt – Olga Roller
- Colonel Lester, the local British authority – Edward Martindel
- Shaun Dhu, Barry's steadfast mate – Greek Evans
- Sir Reginald Stribling, a British Knight – Algernon Grieg
- Rosie Flynn – Louise Allen
- Biddy Flynn – F. Josie Claflin
- "Humpy" Grogan – John B. Cooke
- Lanty Hackett – Harry Crosby
- Mickey O'Brien – Joseph Dillon
- Dinny Doyle – Scott Welsh
- Chorus of Villagers
- Act I
It is 1798. Lady Maude, widow of Lord Estabrook, an English lady, is the mistress of Castle Sligo, creating resentment among the Irish locals. Shaun Dhu leads a band of smugglers and revolutionaries on the Western coast of Ireland that includes Barry O'Day. The band stores its loot at Biddy's Black Bull Inn. Lady Maude and her niece, Eileen, stop at the Inn when their carriage breaks down. Barry O'Day protects them from some village drunks. Colonel Lester, the local British authority, comes to arrest Barry for treason, but he escapes as Lady Maude's groom.
- Act II
Later, at Castle Sligo, Lady Maude has developed affection for Barry. Eileen explains that Barry is a rogue. Nevertheless, Maude decides to help Barry escape again from the Colonel by putting a coachman's uniform on her guest, Sir Reggie, making him a decoy. Sir Reggie is arrested and sentenced to death before the Colonel learns that he has been fooled and that Barry has gotten away again.
- Act III
By the time of Lady Maude's birthday, Eileen and Barry have fallen in love. Learning that Barry is there, the Colonel has his men surround the castle. Barry surrenders, and he is about to be shot, when news arrives that the King has pardoned the rebels. The arrest is reversed, various couples are united, including Barry and Eileen, and it is declared that "Ireland shall stand among all nations of the world."
Al Goodman's orchestra and soloists recorded eight highlights from Eileen on a set of 78 RPM records. These selections were later reissued by RCA Camden on one side of a 12-inch LP (selections from Polonaise are on the reverse). This album has been out-of-print since the late 1950s. The Ohio Light Opera revived and recorded the opera in 1997 using Herbert's original orchestrations, reconstructed by Quade Winter from Herbert's manuscripts, held in the collection of the Library of Congress.
- Information from MusicWeb International
- Theatre program, Landmark on the Park, NYC, Light Opera of New York, March 16–17, 2012
- The Little Orchestra Society’s 2003 concert libretto with Narrator's historical introduction to the musical
- Wilson, John S. The New York Times review, December 15, 1982