Opera: Robin Hood – Reginald De Koven

“Robin Hood,” a comic opera in three acts with score by Reginald De Koven and text by Harry B. Smith, was produced in Chicago, June 9, 1890.


Robert of Huntington, afterward Robin Hood. Sheriff of Nottingham. Sir Guy of Gisborne, his ward. Little John, Will Scarlett, Alan-a-Dale, outlaws. Friar Tuck, Lady Marian Fitzwalter, a ward of the crown, after-ward Maid Marian. Dame Durden, a widow. Annabel, her daughter. Villagers, milkmaids, outlaws, kings, foresters, archers, peddlers.

The scene is laid in England at the time of Richard I. The story opens on May-day at the market-place in Nottingham, where a merrymaking is in progress. The outlaws come to join in the fun and finally Robin Hood appears, dashing and handsome, and declares that he is earl and that the Sheriff shall so proclaim him. That worthy, however, has other plans. He swears that Robin Hood has been disinherited by his own father, who, shortly before the youth’s birth, was secretly married to a peasant girl who died when her child was born. This child whom he has reared, he asserts is Sir Guy and the rightful heir of Huntington. It has been arranged that the fair Maid Marian shall marry Sir Guy but her eyes are all for Robin Hood. She hopes that she may postpone her wedding until King Richard comes hack from the crusades and thus be able to find a way out of the engagement. Robin Hood hopes, on the monarch’s return, to obtain help to prove his right to his own. Incidentally, Robin Hood and Maid Marian, to the deep disgust of Sir Guy, exchange vows of mutual affection. The outlaws are all on Robin Hood’s side and invite him to join their jolly crew, promising that instead of an earl he may be their king and rule beneath the greenwood tree. Robin agrees and they place the Sheriff in stocks from which he finally is rescued by Sir Guy and his archers.

In the last act a message from the king brought by Robin Hood saves Maid Marian at the very door of the church from the marriage which has seemed inevitable, and there is a general rejoicing that

Tho’ clouds were dark and drear The sky is now so blue above.

” Robin Hood ” is generally conceded to be the best musical score Reginald De Koven has written, while the libretto is easily the best of the many Harry B. Smith has given the stage. The work has enjoyed widespread and enduring popularity. Much admired are the spirited overture ; the chorus, “A morris dance must you entrance ;” the auctioneer song of Friar Tuck; the milkmaid’s song with the chorus, ” When Chanticleer Crowing; ” Robin Hood’s entrance to the chorus, ” Come the Bowmen in Lincoln Green ; ” the duet of Robin Hood and Maid Marian, ” Though it was within this hour we met; ” the song and chorus, ” I am the Sheriff of Nottingham; ” the trio of the Sheriff, Sir Guy and Maid Marian, ” When a peer makes love to a maiden fair; ” the chorus, ” Cheerily soundeth the hunter’s horn,” which opens Act II; Scarlett’s story of ” The Tailor and the Crow,” sung to humming accompaniment; the song of Little John and the chorus, “Brown October Ale; ” the tinker’s chorus; the sextet ” Oh See the Lambkins Play;” Marian’s charming forest song; Robin’s serenade, “A Troubadour sang to his love;” and, in Act III, the Armorer’s song, ” Let hammer on anvil ring; the “Legend of the Chimes,” by Allan-a-Dale and chorus ; the duet of Marian and Robin Hood, There will come a time;” the quintet, ” When life seems made of pains and pangs, I sing to my too-ral-loo ral-lay ” and the country dance, “Happy day! Happy day!”