The Boatswain's Mate

Mon 8 - Fri 19 July 2024

Ethel Smyth (1858 - 1944)

A Buxton International Festival production.

Death was never going to confine the force of nature that was Ethel Smyth to obscurity for long.  A trailblazing composer, conductor and feminist; she was a breaker of windows for the suffragettes, and a breaker of glass ceilings for women musicians of the Victorian era. During her life she met discrimination towards her work with defiance.  She became the first woman to have an opera performed at the New York Met, she was the first woman composer to become a Dame, and in 2021 she was posthumously awarded her first Grammy.

Given that the tune for the suffragette’s anthem March of the Women is in the overture, it is perhaps unsurprising that The Boatswain’s Mate is often considered Smyth’s most ‘feminist’ opera. There’s also speculation that the protagonist is based on her great friend Emmeline Pankhurst.

The Boatswain’s Mate is a battle of the sexes, that centres on the feisty Mrs Waters, a widowed landlady who has no desire to remarry.  When one of her suitors, an ex-boatswain, attempts to ludicrously win her hand by concocting a fake robbery, she retaliates with aplomb. Smoking gun in hand, she proves she has no need for a knight in shining armour, but also perhaps that she’s not completely hardened to the idea of love.

Nick Bond directs, following his successes with Jonathan Dove’s The Enchanted Pig (2021) and assistant-directing La sonnambula (2023). The cast is led by soprano Elizabeth Findon and tenor Joshua Baxter. Rebecca Warren directs the Buxton Chamber Collective from the piano.

Music and libretto by Ethel Smyth, based on a story of the same name by W W Jacobs.



Elizabeth Findon Mrs Waters

Joshua Baxter Harry Benn

Theo Perry Ned Travers

Richard Woodall Policeman

Rebecca Anderson Mary Ann



Rebecca Warren Musical Direction from the Piano

Nick Bond Director


Public Booking opens on Tuesday 2 April 2024 at 10am.

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