Opera Scotland

Lily of Killarney The Lily of Killarney


Julius Benedict (born Stuttgart, 27 November 1804; died London, 5 June 1885)


John Oxenford and Dion Boucicault


Play The Colleen Bawn (1860) by Dion Boucicault (1820-90)



First performance: London (Covent Garden), 8 February 1862.

First UK performance: As above.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (), 19 April 1863.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Sir Julius Benedict was one of the long list of musicians who came to Britain to work, stayed here, and became naturalised. In his case he was perhaps more a pianist and conductor than a composer, though he was successful in that sphere, with an excellent piano concerto to his credit. Before reaching London, he worked extensively in Vienna and Naples (where he produced three operas). Dion Boucicault was one of the most popular playwrights of the period, and The Colleen Bawn one of his most popular plays. Of the large number of British operas which achieved success in the Victorian period, The Lily was only outshone by The Bohemian Girl and Maritana, (both of which Benedict had conducted at their Drury Lane premieres), and it was still revived regularly between the wars. Today, even Boucicault is remembered largely for his early comedy London Assurance and his last popular Irish play, The Shaughraun. The Colleen Bawn has not yet returned to popularity, any more than has The Lily of Killarney.


Main Characters

Eily O'Connor, the Colleen Bawn (soprano)

Hardress Cregan, secretly married to Eily (tenor)

Mrs Cregan, his mother (contralto)

Mr Corrigan, holder of a mortgage on the Cregan lands (bass)

Myles na Coppaleen, in love with Eily (tenor)

Danny Mann, a boatman (baritone)

Miss Ann Chute, an heiress (soprano)

Father Tom (bass)


Plot Summary

Hardress is secretly married to Eily, though even his mother is unaware of this. Mrs Cregan is visited by Corrigan, who gives her two options - either that Hardress obtain the money owed by marrying the heiress Ann Chute, or that Mrs Cregan herself marry Corrigan. He tells her of Hardress's infatuation with Eily, and they watch as Danny rows Hardress over the lake to visit his love. Eily's friends, including Myles and the priest, try to persuade her to make her marriage public. Hardress tries to persuade her to repudiate it. She decides to do neither, but to keep quiet and hold on tight to the marriage certificate. Hardress, consumed by feelings of guilt, pays court to Ann. Danny sows in his mind the idea of killing Eily. Corrigan applies more pressure to Mrs Cregan, which angers Hardress to the point that he agrees to marry Ann. Danny asks Mrs Cregan to fetch him Hardress's glove, which she does not know is a pre-arranged signal which authorises Danny to kill Eily. Later, he invites Eily to come in his boat to visit Hardress. Against the advice of Myles she does go, and Danny rows her into a cave where he attempts to drown her. However he is himself shot accidentally by Myles, who is hunting nearby. Father Tom and Myles save Eily from drowning. As the marriage of Ann and Hardress approaches, Corrigan announces that Danny, in a deathbed confession, has implicated Hardress in the murder of Eily, and he is arrested. However Eily and Myles arrive and Mrs Cregan is able to exonerate her son by saying that she had taken his glove without asking him, and without knowing what it was for.

The Cast

Danny Mann
 a boatman, devoted to Hardress
Eily O'Connor
 the Colleen Bawn
Father Tom
 Parish Priest of Kenmare
Hardress Cregan
 secretly married to Eily
Hyland Creagh
Miss Ann Chute
 an heiress, the Colleen Rhud
Mr Bertie O'Moore
Mrs Cregan
 Hardress's mother
Myles na Coppaleen
 in love with Eily
Squire Corrigan
 holder of a mortgage on the Cregan lands

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