Buxton International Festival

The Boatswain's Mate

Ethel Smyth (1858 – 1944)Pavilion Arts Centrebutton--dates-and-timesDates & Times

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, becoming the first woman to have an opera performed at the New York Met and the first female composer to become a Dame.

Given that the tune for the suffragette’s anthem March of the Women is in the overture, it is 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 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).

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

Creative Team

Rebecca Warren Musical Direction from the piano
Nick Bond Director


Joshua Baxter Harry Benn
Theo Perry Ned Travers
Elizabeth Findon Mrs Waters
Richard Woodall Policeman
Rebecca Anderson Mary Ann

Dates & Times

  • Duration: 1hr 20mins
  • Price: £45



Under 35s (Next-Gen BIF Friends): £10