Rita is left alone and sings a song contrasting the shepherd’s happiness with her own loneliness (‘Only the night wind’). But the old shepherd now approaches, and reassures Rita; finally he reveals himself, and he (Vasquez) and Rita sing a rapturous duet of love and restored hope (‘A guard by night’).
Adolphus Cimabue Grigg, an English traveller, now enters. He has come with his camera to capture the local scenery (‘From rock to rock’). But he himself is captured – by Sancho and José, the brigand lieutenants – as the first stranger to pass (‘Hullo! What’s that?’). José and Sancho celebrate with a call to dance the bolero, a request which mystifies Mr Grigg. He is informed by the brigands that he must become leader of the band, and husband to Inez.
The ancient rites of the Ladrones now commence with a flamboyant Dance. Mr Grigg is duly invested with the Sacred Hat of office (‘Slave, take my robe … Hail to the ancient Hat!’), and the Company sing and dance in celebration.
The second act opens with a song from Count Vasquez, who, in his capacity as an old shepherd, is acting as guard to Rita (‘Wake, gentle maiden’). His place is taken by Sancho, who promptly falls asleep. José and Inez now enter. They have formed a plot to kill Sancho, so that they are free to marry each other. According to their scheme, the new captain (Mr Grigg himself) will kill Sancho, and then be killed in his turn in retaliation by the rest of the band. The two sing a stirring duet (‘Let Hidalgos be proud’).
Rita, alone, sings of her increasing concern, and of her hope that Vasquez will come to the rescue (‘He will return’).
Sancho, however, has overheard the plot while ostensibly asleep, and now warns Grigg of what is planned. Fulfilling his fears, in a blood-curdling trio, Inez and José inform Grigg that he must provide them with Sancho’s head (‘Silence! Silence! … Who’d to be Robber-Chief aspire’). Overwhelmed, Grigg now also falls asleep.
Sancho now decides to desert his comrades, leaving Grigg to the mercy of Inez and José. On Inez and José re-entering, Grigg describes to them his desperate but unavailing attempts to despatch Sancho (‘I fired each barrel’). Rita now seeks his aid (‘Have pity, sir!’), which he gallantly offers, but the situation is saved by Count Vasquez, who enters with a group of soldiers. The brigands decide to join the army, Count Vasquez and Rita are reunited, and Mr Grigg returns with relief to London. The opera ends in high spirits as all join in a general dance.
from notes by David Eden & William Parry © 2004