Among the items on display in the Emperor of the Irish exhibition in the Long Room are a number of musical works that celebrate Brian Boru (died 1014), Ireland’s most famous king. The oddest of these must surely be Brian Boru: A Romantic Opera, which was published in Cincinnati by the Anglo-American duo Stanislaus Stange (words) and Julian Edwards (music), in 1896.
This highly anachronistic and fanciful work features Brian battling the English, after being betrayed by an English princess with whom he had fallen in love. A cast of leprechauns, fairies and drunken stage Irishmen accompanies him, and one of the latter (a henchman of Brian, named Pat O’Hara) owns a pig who dispenses matrimonial advice:
Paddy was a single man whin first he got this pig.
For all the gels in Oireland he didn’t care a fig.
At last he met a widdy, she smoil’d an’ call’d him Pat,
an’ said “Make me your Biddy”, shure the pig soon settled that.
“Paddy, yer off agin, Paddy look out!
Paddy, yer full a-gin, moind phat yer about.
Be actin loike a man av sinse,
and let the whuskey be;
shure if ye want to be a pig,
live in the stye wid me.”
Brian Boru received positive reviews and sold out when performed in New York, but fared less well on the West Coast: a reviewer for the San Francisco Call described it as ‘terrible’, an hour too long and declared that the ‘humor seems to center in that anatomical feature which is not mentionable in polite society’!