“Billee Taylor,” or “The Reward of Virtue,” a comic opera in two acts with text by Stephens and music by Edward Solomon, was first presented in London in 1880.
Captain, the Hon. Felix Flapper, R. N. of H. M. S. “Thunderbomb.” Sir Mincing Lane, a knight. Billee Taylor, a sailor. Ben Barnacle, a sailor. Christopher Crab, a tutor. Phoebe Fairleigh, a charity girl. Arabella Lane, an heiress. Eliza Dabsey, the beloved of Ben Barnacle. Susan. Jane Scraggs. Charity girls.
The story is founded on the old song of ” Billee Taylor,” a well known English nautical ditty. The scene is laid in Southampton in 1805. The first act opens at The Inn of the Royal George which overlooks the harbor. The villagers are found rejoicing over the holiday which celebrates the approaching wedding of Billee Taylor and Phoebe. Arabella Lane, a lady of greater fortune than the pretty Phoebe, has done Billee the honor to. fall in love with him and so overcomes her maidenly modesty as to tell him so, though only to have the tempting offer of her hand and fortune refused. The kind-hearted old Sir Mincing Lane arranges a feast in honor of the wed-ding and invites his friend, Captain Flapper, to join in the fun. This impetuous guest falls in love with Phoebe at first sight and vows to marry her himself. Still another swain who sighs over Phoebe is the tutor, Christopher Crab. A guest present, also disturbed by heart-trouble, is Ben Barnacle, who has gone to sea ” all on account of Eliza,” who is bestowing her smiles elsewhere. Ben is ordered by the press-gang, which is in full sway at this time to abduct Billee Taylor, and before the ceremony can unite the lad to the charming Phoebe, the deed is done.
Two years elapse before the second act, which takes place in Portsmouth harbor. A characteristic scene is shown. Ships sail gently in and out the harbor, returned sailors bask in the smiles of their sweethearts and some of them dance a hornpipe on the quay. A great many things have happened in the two years. Phoebe and all the charity girls disguised as boys have followed Billee to sea and that gentleman has proved worthy of their devotion by rising to be a lieutenant. Arabella still forces her attentions upon him and he is gradually warming in the glow of her persistent love-making. Phoebe learns of this from Captain Flapper. Sir Mincing Lane, who is organizing a company of volunteers, tries to get some of the sailors to join him and Phoebe decides to enlist but is claimed by Barnacle as a messmate and a quarrel is brought on between the soldiers and sailors. Crab incites Phoebe to fire at the unfaithful Billee and she yields but the shot goes wild and hits her adviser. She is sentenced to be shot but declares that she is a woman and, when her identity is discovered, Billee claims her as his own.
” Billee Taylor,” which has had frequently to face the accusation of being an unmistakable copy of ” H. M. S. Pinafore,” is by no means devoid of merit of its own and has enjoyed deservedly no small measure of popular favor.
Among the many taking numbers contained in this opera are Billee’s song, “The Virtuous Gardener;” the duet, in which Arabella confesses her love to Billee; “The Two Rivers,” sung by Susan and Phoebe; Sir Mincing Lane’s song, “The Self-Made Knight;” Phoebe’s song, “The Guileless Orphan ; ” Barnacle’s popular offering, “All on account of Eliza;” “The Poor Wicked Man,” sung by Crab; Angelina’s “Billow” ballad and Captain Flap-per’s musical remarks on “Love, Love, Love,” beginning
Do you know why the rabbits are caught in the snares, Or the tabby-cats shot on the tiles?