Shamus O’Brien

C.V. Stanford | Shamus O’Brien

Stanford’s most popular opera is set against the Irish rebellion of 1798, and tells the story of the charismatic Shamus O’Brien, hunted by the English so he can be brought to justice – but will he manage to escape? The opera was so successful that Stanford feared it would incite anti-English sentiment and he withdrew it, but, revived after his death, its mix of pathos, drama, and melodies proved irresistible.


SKU: RO011 Category:

Shamus O’Brien was written as an Irish work, and so the five Irish characters were taken by singers from the Republic of Ireland (headed by Brendan Collins), with Captain Trevor sung by the quintessentially English Joseph Doody. We recorded in Glasgow in January and February 2023 with the Orchestra of Scottish Opera, with a little more recording taking place later at Champs Hill, Surrey – our singer for Nora was ill during the main recording session, and though she could speak, Anna Brady was unable to sing, and by the time her voice had recovered, it had also developed further – but downwards, and Gemma Ní Bhriain took over the vocal rôle. The wonderful Opera Bohemia Voices came in to sing the chorus, and the renowned David Parry conducted and kept everyone under control. The whole week of the main recording was an extraordinary time – all our recordings are invariably first recordings, and there is always a frisson of excitement about hearing music that has not been heard for decades. The orchestra was magnificent.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford was a prolific composer, and his church music, in particular, is regularly played and sung. He was also widely recognised as a highly influential composition teacher at the Royal College of Music, London, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, where his students included Vaughan Williams, Holst, Frank Bridge and Muriel Herbert. He Shamus O’Brien, based on Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu’s poem and with a libretto by the Irish writer George H. Jessop, had everything – a strong story, comedy, pathos, a historical basis, plus memorable tunes (two were very familiar folk tunes). It was what the Dublin-born Stanford wanted – a work that would be popular, with firmly Irish roots, that would show that he was much more than a very fine symphonist and choral composer. First performed at the Opera Comique in London in 1896, it was subsequently performed around the world,  with much made of the inclusion of a part for a player of Irish, or Uilleann pipes.

Sir Charles Villiers Stanford | Shamus O’Brien

Music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford (1852–1924)
Libretto by George H. Jessop (c.1851–1915)
New edition by Valerie Langfield

Brendan Collins | Shamus O’Brien
Anna Brady, Gemma Ní Bhrian | Nora O’Brien
Andrew Gavin | Mike Murphy
Rory Dunne | Father O’Flynn
Ami Hewitt | Kitty, Nora’s sister
Joseph Doody | Captain Trevor
Catriona Clark | The Banshee
Sergeant Cox | David Parry
Uilleann pipes | Jarlath Henderson
Opera Bohemia Voices | Alistair Digges and Douglas Nairne, Artistic Directors

The Orchestra of Scottish Opera
Conducted by David Parry
Benjamin Hamilton | Assistant Conductor

CD 1

1 | Overture

Act 1

2 | Act 1 Introduction (Father O’Flynn, chorus)
3 | And that’s the boy…
4 | Sortie
5 | Where is the man (Kitty)
6 | Stip nately over the stones…
7 | He’s straight as a Dart (Kitty, Mike, Captain)
8 | Now, yer honour, ye know…
9 | Well, he’d take me by the hand (Kitty, Captain)
10 | An’ in troth he’s a nice young man…
11 | I’ve sharpened the sword (Shamus)
12 | And I’m afraid they’ve had warning…
13 | Is it Shamus you seek? (Captain, Shamus, chorus)
14 | This is a most aggravating creature…
15 | Act 1 Finale (Kitty, Nora, O’Flynn, chorus)
16 | Jig and Act 1 Finale continued (ensemble)

CD 2

Act 2

1 | Entr’acte
2 | Act 2 Introduction
3 | My heart is thrall (Captain)
4 | You wanted to see me, sir?…
5 | What the devil are you doing (Captain, Mike)
6 | Don’t be a fool…
7 | Ochone, when I used to be young (Mike Murphy)
8 | Walk, girls, walk (Kitty, chorus)
9 | Why Kitty – you here!…
10 | So it’s kisses you’re craving (Kitty, Captain)
11 | It’s a bargain! Shake hands on it!…
12 | Darlin’, darlin’ (Nora, Shamus)
13 | You’re feeling bad now…
14 | March
15 | The Court is open…
16 | Ensemble and Melodrama (Nora, Banshee, Captain, Shamus, O’Flynn, chorus)
17 | Entr’acte
18 | They’re taking him from the jail (Kitty, Nora, O’Flynn, chorus)
19 | Well, girls, the procession has started…
20 |  Act 2 Finale (ensemble)

Thank you to those who have already supported the project:

Friends | The Ida Carroll Trust | Vint Cerf (Patron) | Michael Cooke (Life Member) | University of Durham | Jamie Findlay (Life Member) | Dave Green (Life Member) | John Grimshaw (Life Member) | The Rainbow Dickinson Trust | The Stanford Society | Allan Sutcliffe | Colin Taylor (Life Member) | Trinity College, Cambridge | Judith Waddicor (Patron) | Renée (Mrs Percy) Young | 1 anonymous donor

Club Members | Crescendo Music Publications | Christine Clark | Jeremy Dibble | Richard Hall | Øyvind Erik Jensen (Life Member) | Piet de Jong | Axel Klein | Andrew Lamb (Life Member) | Daniel Mitterdorfer | Giulio Piovani | Julian Rushton | Michael Sharp | Keiko Shirakawa | Michael Symes

Sponsors | Hugh Andrew | Karen Arrandale | The Edgar Bainton Society | Stephen Banfield | David Brown | Helen Brown | Jim Cassaro | Thomas Crochunis | Peter Dale | Anne-Cécile de Bruyne | Jacqueline Fujita | John Groves | Sean Hanily | Natsuko Hirakura | Derek Hughes | David Russell Hulme | The William Hurlstone Society | Michael Jones | Gerald Malone | Alyson McLamore | Eric Nye | Ann O’Brien | Michael O’Shaughnessy | Roger Parker | Charles Paterson | Michael Pilkington | Christopher Purvis | Paul Rodmell | Jan Smaczny | Tony Strangis | John Taylor | 3 anonymous donors

Supporters | Drew Adams | Christine Bashford | Paul Blake | Russell Burdekin | Anthony Burton | Hugh and Alison Chandler | David Colville | David Clare | John Cunningham | Bill Davy | Coleen Ferguson | Sharyi Ferguson | Robin Gordon-Powell | Jean-Marie Gregoire | Siân Griffiths | Björn Michael Harms | Hiroko Ikeda | Keiko Kiriyama | Stephen Lamley | Leanne Langley | Joe Law | Patrick Lonergan | Lois Potter | Richard and Mary Rolton | Mariko Nishitani | Yuko Otagaki | Clive Paget | Saverio Porry Pastorel | Frances Paul | Christopher Redwood | John Sheppard | Masaya Shimokusu | Ruth Solie | Rob Stove | Anthony Thorley | Peter Trotter | in memory of John Tyrrell | John Ward | Martin Winn

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by Retrospect Opera | Work In Progress