The Lily of Killarney

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The Lily of Killarney is an opera in three acts by Julius Benedict. The libretto, by John Oxenford and Dion Boucicault, is based on Boucicault's own play The Colleen Bawn. The opera received its premiere at Covent Garden Theatre, London on Monday 10 February 1862.[1]


The Lily of Killarney became the most widely performed of Benedict's operas. It has been linked with Balfe's The Bohemian Girl and Wallace's Maritana as 'The Irish Ring'.[2][3] Its convincing handling of Irish idiom is interesting considering Benedict's German-Jewish origins. Some of the opera's songs – notably The moon hath raised her lamp above and Eily Mavourneen – remain in the repertoire. The opera is mentioned in James Joyce's Ulysses[4] and Djuna Barnes' Nightwood.[5]


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 10 February 1862
(Conductor: – Alfred Mellon)
Eily O'Connor (the 'colleen bawn') soprano Louisa Pyne
Ann Shute soprano Jessie McLean
Mr. Corrigan bass Eugene Dussek
Father Tom baritone John George Patey
Hardress Cregan tenor Henry Haigh [6]
Mrs. Cregan contralto Susan Pyne
Danny Mann baritone Charles Santley
Myles na Coppaleen tenor William Harrison


Killarney at the end of the 18th century. Cregan has married Eily (the 'colleen bawn' = Gaelic 'the fair maid') in secret. Corrigan threatens to dispossess Cregan and his mother, who have mortgaged their lands to him, unless Cregan marries the heiress Ann Shute. Cregan's friend Danny offers to resolve the situation by killing Eily. Cregan demurs, but the unwitting Mrs. Cregan is persuaded by Danny to give a signal for Eily's death. But before he can kill her, Danny himself is accidentally shot by Myles (who is out hunting), to whom he confesses. Cregan is about to marry Ann when Corrigan arrives to arrest him for plotting Eily's death. Myles makes public Danny's confession, Cregan acknowledges Eily and Ann (in the most unlikely turn of all) undertakes to settle the Cregans' debts to Corrigan.


  • Nigel Burton, The Lily of Killarney in Grove Music Online
  • The Viking Opera Guide ed. Holden (Viking, 1993)


  1. ^ The date of 8 February often given was in fact the premiere of Balfe's The Puritan's Daughter; Benedict's opera followed on Monday 10th (Grove Music Online)
  2. ^ Burton, GMO
  3. ^ Seamus Reilly, James Joyce and Dublin Opera: 1888–1904, p. 6, in Bronze by Gold, the Music of Joyce, edited by Sebastian D. G. Knowles, Garland Publishing
  4. ^ "Ulysses by James Joyce: The Lily of Killarney", accessed 29 June 2009
  5. ^ [1], accessed 27 June 2011
  6. ^ See "The moon has raised her lamp above" : duet "sung by Mr Haigh [Hardress Cregan] & Mr Santley [Danny Mann]" – published by Orpheus Music Company c.1875