Alison Jones's Opera Plot Summaries.

Camille Saint-Saens:
Samson et Dalila

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jul 97

ACT I

A public square in Gaza

The Hebrews lament their subjection to the Philistines and pray for deliverance, despite Samson's attempts to encourage them, reminding them of God's past mercies.

Abimelech, the Philistine satrap of the city, reproves them for rebelliousness and tells them that their God is deaf to their cries and less powerful than Dagon, god of the Philistines. Samson proclaims that the hour of vengeance has come and the Hebrews are inspired to rally to his call. Abimelech attacks him, but is killed by Samson. When the high priest emerges form the temple of Dagon, to find the body of Abimelech, he orders his guards to crush the rebellious Hebrews, but the Philistines are filled with superstitious terror; a messenger brings the news that Samson and the Hebrews are destroying the harvest.

The Philistines are ready to abandon the city, but the high priest remains firm, calling down a curse on the Hebrews in general and Samson in particular. The Hebrews rejoice in the might of God, who has helped them, but an old Hebrew warns that their plight was God's punishment for their sins.

Dalila comes out of the temple and tries to renew her affair with Samson. The old Hebrew warns Samson against her wiles, but Samson is troubled in spite of himself, as she leads Philistine girls in a dance in his honor.

ACT II

Dalila's house in the Valley of Sorek

Dalila waits for Samson, who has reluctantly agreed to come to her. The high priest tells her that the Hebrews have conquered the city and he needs her help, promising her a reward if she can bring about Samson's defeat. She answers that she needs no reward; vengeance will be her inspiration, as she now hates Samson. Three times she has tried and failed to learn the secret of his strength and is determined to succeed this time. Samson reproaches himself for the weakness which brings him back to Dalila. She greets him fondly and asks why he has turned from her, and he answers that although he loves her, he is not free to devote himself to love; he has been chosen by God to free his people.

Dalila so enchants him that he renews his protestations of love, but he resists her invitation to show his trust of her by revealing the source of his strength; he interprets the storm which is raging around them as a sign of God's wrath. Bidding him an angry farewell, Dalila goes inside, and Samson follows her. Dalila's voice is heard calling the Philistine soldiers to capture Samson.

ACT III

Scene 1. The prison house at Gaza

Blind and in chains, shorn of the hair which was the source of his strength, Samson laments his fatal weakness and begs God to spare his people, who can be heard outside grieving over his fall.

Scene 2. Inside the temple of Dagon

The Philistines are celebrating. They mock him Samson, led by Dalila, who tells him that her vengeance is now satisfied. The high priest makes offereings to Dagon and leads the Philistines in worship. He calls on Samson to bow to Dagon and make an offering, but Samson has himself led to the centre of the temple where two pillars support the roof. With a prayer to God to restore his lost strength, he pulls down the pillars and destroys the temple, himself and all within it.

Alessandro Scarlatti:
Il Trionfo dell'Onore

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 79

Near the houses of Cornelia and Flaminio, not far from Pisa

Riccardo and his friend Captain Bombarda have just escaped to Pisa from Lucca where they had got themselves into some kind of scrape. They are penniless and prepare to descend on Riccardo's uncle Flaminio, in the hope that he will provide them with money so that they can continue their merry way with the ladies.

Riccardo has seduced and abandoned Leonora and then turned to Doralice. His pursuit of her had been interrupted, so he is still interested in her. Leonora comes to Pisa in search of Riccardo. Overcome by her plight she faints in the street and is succoured by Cornelia and her maid Rosina and taken into Cornelia's house. Flaminio,though supposed to be engaged to Cornelia, is much more interested in Rosina.

Doralice, also come to Pisa in search of Riccardo, meets Leonora at the house of her aunt Cornelia. Leonora tells Doralice that her brother Erminio, with whom Doralice has been in love, is coming to Pisa, but Doralice confesses that she no longer loves him. She loves Riccardo instead, although he has failed to appear at their rendezvous. Leonora is relieved that things have gone no farther and keeps silent about her interest in Riccardo.

Cornelia, concerned that Flaminio has not visited her for some time, sets out in search of him. He answers her questions about the date of their marriage with loving words but mutters to himself that he prefers the youthful charms of Rosina. Riccardo comes to ask his uncle for money. Flaminio, after expressing disapproval of his nephew's character, gives him some. Doralice finds Riccardo and reproaches him for leaving her. He explains that he had to leave Lucca hurriedly because his life was in danger and renews his protestations of love, to her great delight.

Riccardo now tells Bombarda that he now has money and explains his philosophy of life: like the bee he likes to flit from flower to flower. Bombarda, now that money is available, turns his mind to women. Rosina appears and he pays court to her, telling her of his prowess in war and love. She lends a ready ear. This does not stop her from being impressed by the charms of Erminio when he arrives in Pisa and asks her where he can find lodging. Erminio is as astonished to find Leonora in Pisa as she is to see him. She reveals that she has been betrayed by Riccardo and tells her brother that he too has been betrayed, since Doralice has left him for Riccardo, his friend.

Leonora confronts Doralice with her claim to Riccardo and the two quarrel bitterly over him, accompanied after a while by Cornelia and Flaminio. Cornelia supports her niece and Flaminio offers his help to Leonora, deploring his nephew's faithless nature. Bombarda promises to marry Rosina, but she is not convinced. Riccardo and Doralice agree to elope, but Erminio appears and challenges his false friend to a duel, while Leonora and Doralice try to stay his hand. Riccardo accepts the challenge and he and Doralice tell Leonora and Erminio respectively that they no longer love them.

Bombarda continues his attempts to persuade Rosina to elope. She is only convinced when he tells her that Doralice and Riccardo will also be of the party. Flaminio interrupts, claiming Rosina as his. He is in turn attacked by Cornelia because of his interest in Rosina. An argument develops between Bombarda, Cornelia and Flaminio.

Riccardo and Erminio enter fighting. Riccardo falls wounded, to the distress of Leonora and Doralice. Flaminio threatens vengeance on Riccardo's behalf, but Riccardo declares that Erminio's hand was strengthened by the justice of heaven. He begs Leonora's forgiveness and asks her to marry him. Doralice wastes no time in begging Erminio to forgive her, Flaminio makes up with Cornelia and all four couples are united, joining in praise of honor and faithful love.

William Shield:
Rosina

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 82

ACT I

A rural scene at harvest time, with a cottage in the foreground and a gentleman's residence in the background

Rosina, Phoebe and William are preparing for the day's work. William leaves and Rosina and Phoebe work near the cottage. Dorcas advises Rosina to take care of herself as she was not born for hard toil, but Rosina replies that she has no regrets since she has "health, content amd innocence". Phoebe, however, finds her melancholy and suggests that she has no sweetheart, having spurned all the young men who approached her. She compares Rosina's state with her own happy relationship with William. But Rosina is not insensible to love, She cherishes a secret and hopeless passion for Mr Belville.

Rustics and reapers appear and begin to work. Harry wonders where the two Irishmen he has recently taken on are. They appear shortly afterwards in the company of Mr Belville who had been giving them refreshment after their three-mile walk. He is a kindly gentleman, happiest when doing good to his dependants. Rosina is gleaning but Harry roughly orders her to keep further back. Mr Belville reproaches him for his lack of charity towards one so poor and lovely. His thoughts turn wistfully to Rosina.

Captain Belville arrives to visit his brother for the hunting season, but after extolling the beauties of the chase he decides to spend the day in the fields with his brother - having taken note of several rustic beauties and of Rosina in particular. William catches sight of Phoebe apparently flirting with Harry and reproaches her, but she answers angrily, making accusations that he is too interested in the miller's maid. They part in anger.

Captain Belville approaches Rosina but she rejects his attentions. He then makes overtures to Dorcas who sharply answers that she would rather owe her bread to Rosina's labor than to her shame. He then offers Harry money to take a purse of gold to Rosina. Harry does not care for the errand and hands the purse to Mr Belville, who then realises that his brother is interested in Rosina. He tells Harry to carry out the commission. Mr Belville's lunch is spread out in the fields among the workers, who all take their midday rest and relaxation.

ACT II

The same scene, later in the day

Dorcas and Rosina are outside the cottage. Harry manages to slip the purse into Dorcas' basket and Captain Belville slips unnoticed into the cottage. Dorcas discovers the gold and tells Rosina to take it to Mr Belville for safekeepng till the owner is found, but Rosina is unable to approach Mr Belville with equanimity and gives the task to William. Phoebe and William have another argument, in which it appears that they still love one another; so they make up their quarrel and depart, arm in arm.

Mr Belville appears, reflecting on the devastating effect Rosina has on his heart. William gives him the purse which Dorcas has found but Mr Belville tells him to take it back to Dorcas and Rosina. He then lies down to sleep and he is found by Rosina, who uses one of her ribbons to tie the branches together above his head to protect him from the sun. He awakes and recognises the ribbon, but the startled Rosina has run off to the cottage - where she is even more alarmed to find Captain Belville.

Seeing his brother, he slips away, but Mr Belville assures Rosina that his brother can mean no harm. He is touched by Rosina's account of how she tried to protect him from the sun, and speaks to her affectionately. When he expresses the view that she must be more highly-born than her station would suggest she runs off, referring him to Dorcas for her life-story. Dorcas obliges: Rosina's well-born parents had been drowned on their way to the East Indies and left their daughter penniless and Dorcas had taken care of her.

When Captain Belville appears, his brother, suspicious that he had not gone hunting, accuses him of loving Rosina, but Captain Belville evades the question, saying that he loves her no more than any other pretty girl. Dorcas brings the news that Rosina has been abducted. She is rescued by the Irishmen and Harry, who says that Captain Belville's valet was in charge of the kidnapping party; so Captain Belville is obliged to confess that it was his doing.

Mr Belville tells Rosina of his love and is accepted by her. William and Phoebe obtain Mr Belville's permission to marry and William, offered the purse of gold, gives it to the Irishmen as a reward. Captain Belville, seeing the error of his ways, is about to leave. But Mr Belville insists that he remain, as "the man who wishes to become virtuous is already become so".

Dmitri Shostakovich:
Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 84

ACT I

Scene 1. Katerina's room

Katerina laments the emptiness of her married life, regretting her single life, despite its poverty. Her father-in-law Boris complains that she is cold: she has been married to his son for four years and has failed to produce a son to inherit the wealth he has accumulated as a merchant. She answers that it is not her fault that Zinovy has not awakened her love, but he continues to blame her. He tells her to put out poison for the rats and she mutters, after he has gone, that he is a rat himself and should be poisoned.

A mill-hand brings news that there is a breach in the dam and Zinovy has to go see to it. Boris insists that Katerina kneel and promise to be faithful to her husband. Zinovy has just hired a new hand, Sergei, and one of the women, Aksinya, tells Katerina all about him: he is a women chaser who was fired from his last job for carrying on with the mistress.

Scene 2. The Ismailovs' yard

The hands have put Aksinya in a barrel and are tormenting her. Katerina berates them for thinking a woman is only for their amusement and Sergei, who has been prominent in this activity, defends himself. A confrontation develops between Katerina and Sergei, ending in a wrestling match in which Katerina is thrown to the ground just as Boris appears. She claims that she tripped. He orders the men back to work and tells her to cook him some mushrooms.

Scene 3. Katerina's room

Katerina is preparing for bed. Boris comes in to check up on her. Lamenting her loveless state she undresses and goes to bed.

Sergei appears on the pretext of borrowing a book and wastes little time before embracing Katerina, who resists only briefly.

ACT II

Scene 4. The yard

A week later, Boris, unable to sleep, is walking in the yard. Seeing a light in Katerina's room and remembering his wild youth, comparing himself favorably with his feeble son, he decides to go up and console her.

But he sees Katerina bidding farewell to Sergei at the window and when Sergei climbs down the drainpipe he grabs him, calls the hands and accuses Sergei of theft and proceeds to whip him within an inch of his life. He calls Katerina to watch and she climbs down the drainpipe to try and help Sergei, but the servants restain her. The flogging only stops when Boris is exhausted and he orders Sergei to be locked in the storeroom, to await further flogging the next day.

Boris complains that the exercise has made him hungry and orders Katerina to prepare him some mushrooms. Sho poisons them and ignores his cries for water and for the priest, being concerned only to get the storeroom keys to free Sergei. One of the servants fetches the priest and Boris dies confusedly accusing Katerina, but she manages to convince the priest that it was the mushrooms that caused Boris' death.

Scene 5. Katerina's room

Katerina and Sergei are in bed. She is obviously more passionate then he, though he complains of having to meet her clandestinely and points out that her husband will soon be returning. He falls asleep and she sees the ghost of Boris cursing her, but when she wakes Sergei he sees nothing.

Later she hears a sound and realises, from the fact that the dogs are not barking, that it must be her husband. Sergei hides, but Zinovy sees his clothes and cross-examines Katerina suspiciously about her conduct and the death of his father. She says she wants nothing to do with him, calling him a pathetic tradesman and he beats her with Sergei's belt. She calls Sergei and they kill Zinovy and hide the body in the cellar.

ACT III

Scene 6. Near the cellar

Katerina and Sergei are about to be married, though she is still worried about Zinovy's body in the cellar. A shabby peasant sings a drunken song, then breaks down the cellar door in the hope of finding more drink. Finding the body he runs off to get the police.

Scene 7. The police station

The sergeant and policemen are complaining about their lot: they have to work hard and good bribes are offered only rarely. Besides, the sergeant resents not having been invited to the Ismailov wedding and tries to think of a pretext for going there. A mildly socialistic school teacher is brought in and consigned to the cells, but it is the arrival of the shabby peasant with his news that really enlivens their day.

Scene 8. The Ismailov garden

The wedding is proceeding very drunkenly. Katerina notices that the door to the cellar has been broken open and decides she and Sergei must make a run for it, but the police arrive before they have a chance to escape. Katerina gives up easily and begs Sergei to forgive her.

ACT IV

Scene 9. A temporary convict camp near a bridge

Katerina and Sergei are among a group of convicts being taken to Siberia. The men and women are segregated but Katerina bribes a guard to let her go to Sergei. He receives her coldly, blaming her for his plight, and she goes back, lamenting that of all the trials she has had to bear, the loss of his love is the greatest.

Sergei approaches the young and pretty Sonyetka, who rebuffs his advances, but tells him that if he can get her some woollen stockings from his rich merchant's wife her answer might be different. He makes up to Katerina, pretending to love her still, but complaining that his legs are chafed by the fetters they all wear. She takes off her stockings and gives them to him, only to see him run over and present them to Sonyetka, whereupon the two of them disappear together.

Other women convicts stop Katerina from running after them, jeering at her. Sergei and Sonyetka return and Sonyetka taunts Katerina, who waits till the party is moved off and Sonyetka is standing on the bridge. She pushes her into the river and jumps after her. Both are swept away in the icy river.

Larry Sitsky:
The Golem

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 93

ACT I

Scene 1. A street in the Prague ghetto outside Rabbi Judah Loew's house

Rachel sings at the window as two sorcerers set up in the street below. The Rabbi draws her away as the sorcerers exhort the people to give money and they will summon up spirits. The Rabbi tries to stop the sorcerers from fleecing the people, but they do not leave until the Catholic priest Thaddeus arrives, following a group of Christians who are persecuting some Jews and driving them back into the ghetto. Thaddeus urges restraint for the time being, though looking forward to the time when the Jews must embrace the Cross or die. The Christians leave, singing, and the Rabbi blesses his people.

Scene 2. The Rabbi's Dream

Taking up a claim made by one of the sorcerers that it would be possible for the righteous to create a force that would destroy their enemies, the Rabbi dreams of creating a Golem to destroy the enemies of Israel.

Scene 3. The banks of the Moldau

With his students Isaac and Jacob, the Rabbi creates a Golem from the earth, a being of great strength, and names him Joseph, telling him his function is to protect the Jews of Prague.

Scene 4. The street outside Mordecai Meisel's house

The Golem repels and binds a would-be attacker and Thaddeus, who is exhorting a group of students to search for a murdered Christian child, threatens vengeance against Meisel for the Golem's deed. The students light a fire outside the house, but the Golem throws them into it.

Scene 5. In the Rabbi's house

Isaac and the Golem are studying, but the singing of Perele and Rachel, who are embroidering, distracts the Golem. Rachel is curious about this new servant, and Florea, who brings a letter from her master Meisel, flirts with him. Left alone with the Golem, Rachel tries to find out about his background, but he is called away by the Rabbi.

Scene 6. The street in front of the Rabbi's house

The Rabbi tells the people of a plot against Meisel, but assures them that the King has promised to protect the Jews against accusations of murdering Christian children. The Jews dance in celebration. The Golem dances with Florea and Jacob with Rachel.

ACT II

Scene 1. Cardinal Silvester's room

Cardinal Silvester warns the Rabbi that an accusation has been brought by Thaddeus against Mordecai Meisel, claiming that he has murdered Florea and that her blood is being kept to make Passover bread. The Rabbi assures him that Florea, a gypsy, is not lost; she will be found and brought back. He sends the Golem to find her.

Scene 2. The Golem's Journey

Thaddeus incites the Christians aginst the Jews. The Golem searches for Florea, receives refreshment from an old blind woman and finds Florea with her lover at the gypsy camp. She tries to seduce and then taunts the Golem, but he obliges her to follow him.

Scene 3. A street in Prague, outside the court house

Christians accuse Meisel of having murdered Florea and the Rabbi tries to comfort him. The Golem arrives with Florea, to the rejoicing of the Jews. They are attacked by soldiers, but the Golem protects them.

Scene 4. Inside the Rabbi's house

Rachel asks the Golem about his journey, then asks her father about the Golem. Perele is afraid of the Golem and asks the Rabbi to send him away. Meisel, freed, offers to provide a dowry for Rachel, suggesting that Jacob would make a good husband.

Scene 5. A dark obscure place in the town

Rachel asks the sorcerers to tell her fortune. They hypnotise her and she sees a vision of herself with the Golem. Suddenly he appears beside her and they embrace. They are discovered by Florea and three ruffians, who taunt them and assault Rachel. The Golem beats them up and they run away. When the Rabbi, Isaac and Jacob arrive, the Golem mistakes Jacob for one of the assailants; he is ready to attack him, but Jacob reminds him that he is a servant and leads Rachel away.

The Golem expresses his passion for Rachel.

ACT III

Scene 1. A large court with multicolored textiles

Cardinal Silvester prepares to hear charges against the Jews brought by Thaddeus, who brings up again the accusation of the murder of Christian children. The Cardinal declares the Jews defeated in the disputation and their books in error, and orders the books burnt. The Golem tries to comfort the weeping Rabbi, arguing that the destruction of the books will not mean the destruction of their message.

Scene 2. The Rabbi's study

Meisel hopes that the King will protect them, but the Rabbi is not convinced. Meisel asks the Rabbi to help him make his will, but they are interrupted by cries of pain from outside.

Scene 3. A lonely place

Florea and her accomplices have made the Golem drunk and overpowered him and are torturing him. He is released by the Jews, but Florea tells the Rabbi that the Golem is a sorcerer who has bewitched Rachel. The Rabbi broods about the nature of the creature he has made, realising that the Golem reflects his own passions and carries out deeds which he does not dare.

Scene 4. Street by the ghetto gate

Jacob and the Golem talk about the death of Meisel and the fate of his nephews, his heirs, who were deprived of their inheritance and tortured. Thaddeus incites the Christians against the Jews again.

Scene 5. The Rabbi's street

The Christians attack the Jews. Jacob fights with Thaddeus and kills him. The Christians break into the Rabbi's home and kill Rachel. The Golem carries her body out and places it by the side of Perele, who mourns for her daughter. The Golem also mourns and then carries Rachel away.

Scene 6. The Jewish cemetery in Prague

The Golem sits on a grave with Rachel's body. In his grief he is about to violate her when the Rabbi appears with Isaac and Jacob. The Rabbi orders the Golem to sleep in the attic of the synagogue that night.

Scene 7. The attic of the old synagogue in Prague

Assisted by Jacob and Isaac, the Rabbi removes the holy seal from the forehead of the Golem, depriving him of life.

Bedrich Smetana:
The Bartered Bride

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Oct 81

ACT I

A village marketplace with an inn on one side

The village is celebrating a spring festival. Marenka, a village girl, and Jenik, a young man who has only recently come to the village are in love and Marenka is sad because her parents wish to arrange another marriage for her. Jenik encourages her to stand up for herself and she swears that she will always be his, though she is worried that he does not seem to be upset at the prospect of losing her and asks him if perhaps he loves another girl.

He denies it firmly and she asks about his childhood. He tells her that he was driven from home by his father's second wife and assures her that her love replaces for him the happy home he has lost. They swear their love and Jenik goes while Marenka hides nearby.

Marenka's parents Krusina and Ludmila are firm that she must give her consent but Kecal the marriage broker doesn't consider that her opinion matters, particularly as he has arranged a perfectly good marriage with the son of his landlord Micha. Krusina remarks that he used to know Micha but has not kept up the acquaintance and although he once promised his daughter to Micha's son he doesn't even know which of the two sons it was. Kecal says there is only one son, Vasek, the other having long since disappeared and being assumed to be dead.

Krusina wants to know what is wrong with Vasek that he has been kept out of the way, but Kecal assures him that he is a virtuous and worthy young man with no vices, which causes Krusina and Ludmila to express the wish that such a paragon had seen fit to present himself to them.

Marenka decides to emerge from hiding and asks what her parents want of her, but Kecal breaks in with the news that he has brought her a young man - to be her husband, interrupts Krusina. But Ludmila whispers that she doesn't have to take him if she doesn't want to. When Kecal announces that the wedding will take place in four weeks' time she says that she loves another. Kecal is not impressed and her father insists that he has not given her permission and besides he has already promised her to Micha's son.

When Kecal produces a signed and witnessed document to this effect she throws it to the ground and runs off. Krusina insists that it was a mistake on Kecal's part not to bring Vasek, but he says the boy is shy and not used to female society. He advises Krusina to talk it over with Micha in the inn while he has a talk with Jenik. The villagers dance a polka.

ACT II

Inside the inn

Jenik has a glass of beer with the villagers who warn him that the smooth course of love may be disturbed for him by Kecal, who is drinking in a corner praising the beauties of money as opposed to those of love.

The village girls come in and dance the furiant. When the dancers leave Vasek appears, a shy and awkward young man with a stutter. Marenka follows him in and warns him that his intended bride (whom he does not recognise) is a termagant who loves another and will plague him to death is he marries her. She then flirts with him so that he falls in love with her and she manages to bring him to the point where he says that he will refuse to marry Marenka. He follows her out of the inn, in the hope of a kiss.

Kecal, with some difficulty, engages Jenik in conversation. When Jenik tells him that he comes from far away, Kecal says that it is not good to marry among strangers, but Jenik tells him that he has found here among strangers everything that was lacking in his native village. So Kecal tries to lure him with money, saying he can get a rich wife for him and offering to pay him to give up Marenka.

Jenik pretends to be interested and succeeds in pushing the offer up to 300 florins which Kecal is willing to pay himself as he hopes to get more in commission if Marenka marries Vasek. Jenik agrees to resign his claim to Marenka but only on the condition that she marries no one but Micha's son.

Satisfied with this Kecal goes off to find witnesses, leaving Jenik highly pleased with the arrangements and convinced that true love will prevail. Kecal returns with witnesses and Jenik signs the agreement, to the disgust of the villagers who cry shame on him for having sold his bride. Krusina is grateful that Jenik has withdrawn but also scandalised at his mercenary motives.

ACT III

The market place, later in the day

Vasek, alone, broods on the difficulties attendant on love and how angry his mother is going to be.

The circus arrives, with eager villagers in attendance. The ringmaster introduces them, two of the star attractions being Esmerelda, the tightrope dancer, and a performing bear. Vasek is entranced by Esmerelda. One of the trupe, the "Red Indian", rushes in with the news that the man playing the bear is in the inn, drunk and incapable. The ringmaster and Esmerelda manage to persuade the smitten Vasek to take his place, with the promise that he will be able to dance with Esmerelda.

They leave him and Micha and Hata, his parents, arrive with Kecal and the marriage agreement for him to sign. But he refuses, saying that he has been warned againt Marenka by a pretty girl who is in love with him and he runs off. Marenka then arrives with her parents who are trying to convince her that Jenik has given her up for money, but she refuses to believe this until she sees his signature - at which she is desolated. But when Kecal tries to get her to sign her consent to marry Vasek she says she will stay single.

Vasek comes back and discovers that the girl he had been talking to is really Marenka, so he is now quite happy to marry her; but she asks for time to think and they leave her alone, lamenting Jenik's faithlessness. Jenik, pleased with the success of his manoeuvres, approaches her, but when he tries to explain what he has done she refuses to listen and reproaches him. Kecal then appears and asks if she will marry Micha's son. Jenik answers for her that she will, but she still refuses. However, when both sets of parents arrive she finally agrees to be revenged on Jenik for his treachery.

At this point Micha and Hata recognise Jenik: he is, of course, Micha's long lost son by his first wife. He claims Marenka as his bride and Hata tries to argue but when Marenka is offered the choice between the two sons, she announces that she has long since chosen.

Kecal is enraged that he has been tricked. Someone rushes in with the news that the bear has escaped, but when it arrives, it reveals itself as Vasek. His mother drags him away angrily, and Krusina says to Micha that he could hardly be expected to marry his daughter to a fool like that and that he prefers Jenik - to which Micha agrees and gives the couple his blessing.

Michael Smetanin:
The Burrow

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 94

PROLOGUE

The ghost (the writer Franz Kafka as a child) reads a passage (about walls closing in to form a trap) from Kafka's The Great Wall of China in English, while Kafka remembers the German words.

Scene 1. Prague 1922

Kafka has been writing a letter but goes to the window when he hears someone haranguing a crowd. The attack on both the Germans and the Jews rouses the crowd to riot. Kafka is revolted by Prague, which he can neither leave nor live in. He returns to the letter to Milena, his Czech translator, who appears to him in a vision reproaching him for his coldness. The ghost reminds him of the attic where he played as a child.

Scene 2. Meran-Untermais, Austria

Kafka is writing to Milena, who becomes visible as he reads aloud. She wants him to come to her in Vienna, but he hesitates and finally decides not to, asking her instead to join him on his return to Prague, which she is unable to do. The ghost and Hermann, Kafka's father, emerge from the shadows, the latter complaining about his son and abusing Milena. Kafka is still unable to commit himself to joining Milena.

Scene 3. Prague

The ghost reads from an ancient book the story of the creation of the Prague golem by the Rabbi Liwa ben Bezalel and Kafka reflects on this strange being. He writes to Milena, but fears that words distort his feelings.

Hermann and the ghost appear again, and Hermann continues to abuse Franz for his way of life, his "loopy friends and his cow-eyed gaping over some tart," and his lack of interest in the family butchery.

Scene 4

Kafka recites a passage from his story The Burrow, describing the construction of the burrow. It seems secure, but the world is full of enemies and constant vigilance is needed. Milena appeals to him again: "It is not life you hate, I know you love me." Again he refuses her appeal to come to her, claiming that he is needed in his office. He tells her not to write to him. She vanishes and he dreams of her. The crowd outside can be heard calling "kill!"

Scene 5. An Austrian sanatorium, 1924

Kafka is dying and, joined by the ghost of his childhood self, reflects on his life. Kafka: "All my life I waited to be born." Ghost: "All your life you dream of forgetting."

Johann Strauss:
Die Fledermaus

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 97

ACT I

Eisenstein's house

Alfred is outside, serenading Rosalinde. Adele has been invited to a ball by her sister Ida, a singer, but when she asks her mistress for the night off to visit a sick aunt, Rosalinde, who has heard the excuse before, is unsympathetic, particularly as her husband has to go to jail that night for insulting a policeman. After serenading Rosalinde outside the window, Alfred comes in to press his suit, but Rosalinde reminds him that she is married, though she is touched by his reminder that they had been in love when students at the conservatorium. Learning that Eisenstein will be in jail for five nights, he promises to return later.

Eisenstein comes home with his lawyer, Dr Blind, whose inefficiency has increased his sentence. He asks Rosalinde to dig out some old clothes, so he will not look out of place in jail.

Dr Falke arrives, ostensibly to commiserate with Eisenstein, but actually to invite him (unknown to Rosalinde) to a grand ball that night to be given by the young and wealthy Prince Orlofsky, convincing him that he will be able to go incognito and then report to the jail first thing in the morning.

Rosalinde tells Adele that she may have the evening off and Eisenstein goes off to change his clothes - into full evening dress. Rosalinde, Adele and Eisenstein all rejoice in the prospect of the evening's planned diversions. When the others have gone, Rosalinde receives an invitation to the ball with a new dress and a mask. Alfred returns and makes himself at home with Eisenstein's cap and dressing gown and supper. Colonel Frank arrives to escort his distinguished prisoner to jail in person. He assumes that Alfred is Eisenstein and Rosalinde begs him to go along with this to preserve her reputation. Alfred is led off after taking advantage of the situation to seize a long farewell kiss.

ACT II

Prince Orlofsky's ballroom

Adele discovers that her sister had not sent the invitation, but they decide to make the best of the situation: Adele is to call herself Olga and pretend to be an actress.

Falke promises to entertain Prince Orlofsky, who finds everything a great bore, with a diversion called the Revenge of the Bat. He is seeking revenge on Eisenstein for having left him by a fountain, drunk and in the costume of a bat. When he woke up in the morning he had to make his way home in fancy dress to the amusement of the bystanders. He explains that Adele, the first character in his scenario, is his hero's maid, while Eisenstein, who is announced as the Marquis de Renard, is the central figure.

The prince tells Eisenstein that the only rule of his house is that everyone should do as he pleases; he has been promised a good laugh, at Eisenstein's expense. Catching sight of Adele, Eisenstein is astonished by her resemblance to his wife's chambermaid, but she laughs at him for his "mistake."

The Chevalier Chagrin arrives, Colonel Frank under an assumed name and another of Falke's cast, followed by Rosalinde, masked and calling herself a Hungarian countess, the last of his cast. Eisenstein tries to persuade Rosalinde to unmask, and he tries out his chiming watch, which usually entrances the ladies, but she manages to get it from him. To add conviction to her impersonation, the supposed Hungarian countess sings a czardas. The guests sing a toast to champagne. Eisenstein hurries off to jail, followed by Frank.

ACT III

The jail

Frosch the jailer lurches drunkenly about his business as Alfred bursts into occasional song. When Frank appears, also intoxicated, Frosch tells him that the supposed Eisenstein is demanding his lawyer. Adele and Ida appear, to take up the offer made by Frank to help the supposed Olga's career as an actress. She confesses that she is really a chambermaid, but gives a demonstration of her acting and singing skills. When Eisenstein reports for his sentence, he and Frank are surprised to recognise one another as guests at the ball, but Frank believes he already has Eisenstein in jail. When Dr Blind arrives, Eisenstein borrows his wig and gown. Rosalinde arrives and Alfred is brought from his cell and they try to explain to the supposed lawyer how the mix-up occurred, assuring him that it was quite innocent. Flinging off the wig, Eisenstein launches into a denunciation, which is cut short when Rosalinde produces his watch, as evidence of his philandering. He then tries to pretend that he is not Eisenstein, but Adele identifies him.

Accompanied by Orlofsky and his guests, Falke arrives to explain the plot to Eisenstein. All join in another chorus to champagne.

Richard Strauss:
Ariadne auf Naxos

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 96

PROLOGUE

A poorly furnished room in a rich man's house in Vienna

A stage is being constructed for the performance which is to take place that evening.

The music master has just heard that the opera seria Ariadne by his composer pupil is to be followed by an opera buffa, but his protests to the major domo are swept aside with the reminder that the wealthy patron can arrange matters as he pleases.

The composer has a confrontation with an insolent lackey when he wants to give instructions to his musicians and discovers they are playing dinner music for the guests, but his indignation vanishes as a musical inspiration strikes him. He is not even disturbed by a brawl between the tenor and the wig maker. The dancing master, in charge of the commedia dell'arte troupe whose production is to follow the opera seria, explains the situation to Zerbinetta. The composer is struck by her beauty but horrified when he learns that her performance is to follow his opera. The music master tries in vain to console him.

The dancing master explains to Zerbinetta the advantages of her show following the opera, while the music master tries to soothe the prima donna by telling her that only Ariadne will be remembered the next day. The major domo announces that his master has decided that the two works must be played simultaneously, so that a fireworks display can start punctually at nine o'clock. Besides, it has occurred to his master that a scene so stark as a desert island would be out of keeping with his sumptuous mansion, and he wishes its bareness to be relieved by the addition of the commedia dell'arte figures.

The music master restrains the composer from leaving by reminding him that he needs the fee to live on, and the music master and dancing master put their heads together to devise a solution, the latter explaining that Zerbinetta, as a mistress of improvisation, will be able to fit in with the opera and to give her companions the lead. The prima donna approaches the music master while the tenor whispers to the composer, each trying to keep his part intact at the expense of the other.

The dancing master tells Zerbinetta the plot of the opera - that Ariadne is a princess deserted by her lover and longing for death. Zerbinetta's interpretation - that Ariadne is only waiting for another lover - stirs the composer into trying to explain that Ariadne is a high-souled being who can only love one man; but when she learns that Ariadne is rescued by Bacchus, she declares her point proved and assures the composer he will soon know more about women. She then tells her companions her version of the story, in which they are travellers who have landed on Ariadne's desert island and must cheer her up when the chance occurs.

Then she turns her charms on the composer and he is smitten, standing in a daze when she leaves. The music master convinces the prima donna that the best way she can demonstrate her superiority to Zerbinetta is not to refuse to take part but to show her up on the stage. The composer is rhapsodising about the beauty and power of music when the appearance of the commedia dell'arte troupe about to go on stage brings him abruptly back to earth.

THE OPERA

A desert island

Ariadne lies sleeping at the mouth of a cave, watched by Naiad, Dryad and Echo who comment on her ceaseless lamenting. She wakes and continues to grieve, watched sympathetically from the wings by Zerbinetta and her companions. The nymphs try to rouse her, but she refuses to stir and declares her intention of waiting for death.

Zerbinetta and her companions make a vain attempt to attract her attention and Harlequin sings about the passing of sorrow and the return of love; but she does not even lift her head. She continues to long for the purity of the land of death.

As Harlequin, Brighella, Scaramuccio and Truffaldino sing and dance in front of Ariadne, Zerbinetta reflects that although she herself would have no trouble finding one of them attractive, Ariadne is unmoved. So she dismisses them and tries to explain to Ariadne that although they are of different stations in life, yet both are women with a common fate. Others, too, have been abandoned; even she has cursed the faithlessness of men; but then, women too are not above changing their hearts. Every time she thinks she will be constant to a lover, a new love tempts her and she falls. Each one is welcomed like a god, but this does not stop her from succumbing to a new god.

Harlequin admires her sermon but comments that she has wasted it on deaf ears and proceeds to woo her. She evades him and flirts with the other three, who are also courting her. She flits from one to the other, then suddenly leaves them and runs off with Harlequin.

The nymphs run in with news for Ariadne of the arrival of a god. They relate his upbringing by nymphs, his arrival at the island of the enchantress Circe, her attempt to enslave him and his escape. Bacchus appears, rejoicing in his freedom from Circe, and Ariadne, hearing his voice, thinks he is the messenger of death, a delusion she continues to labor under when they stand face to face. Bacchus is struck by her beauty and asks if she is the goddess of the island and is she, too, a sorceress with the power to transform men. She greets him expecting death, but he assures her that only now is life beginning for both. She faints and thinks she has died, astonished by the magical transformation which seems to have overtaken her, while Bacchus exclaims that hers is the magic which has transformed him. They do not heed Zerbinetta who pops back to remind the audience that the coming of a new god was how she had described the coming of a new lover.

Richard Strauss:
Capriccio

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 85

The garden salon of a chateau near Paris

The adagio of a string sextet composed by Flamand is being played to entertain the countess. Flamand and Olivier, a poet, listening to the music and watching the countess as they talk, discover that they are rivals for her love. They are also rivals in their respective callings, contending about whether words or music have pride of place in opera.

The music stops and the theatre director La Roche, who has been sleeping, wakes up and asserts that his craft is more important than the contribution of either. And the height of theatrical entertainment, he maintains, is Italian opera, which is derided by both artists.

La Roche mentions that the famous actress Clairon, with whom Olivier has had an affair, is coming to the chateau for a rehearsal of the play which is to be put on as part of the countess' birthday celebrations. The count, her brother, admires Clairon and aspires to act with her. The three withdraw as the count and countess enter. He tries to find out which she prefers, poetry or music, Olivier or Flamand, but she declines to decide; she prefers to listen and fears that if she chooses one she must lose the other.

La Roche, Flamand and Olivier come back, ready for the rehearsal. The entertainment is to consist of a sinfonia by Flamand; a play by Olivier, in which the count will play the part of lover, opposite Clairon; and a spectacular conclusion devised by La Roche, consisting of a tableau, a ballet and Italian opera.

Clairon arrives and she and the count begin to recite the love scene. She declares herself as impressed by the count's acting, so La Roche takes them aside to continue rehearsing. Olivier, pained at the way the count has recited his lines, reads to the countess the sonnet from the scene. Flamand goes to the piano and begins to improvise music for it, then rushes out to write it down. Olivier expresses concern that the music will spoil his lines, then seizes the opportunity to indicate his love for the countess, who answers evasively.

Flamand comes back with his music and sings the sonnet to his own accompaniment. Olivier is convinced that his poetry has been ruined, but the countess maintains that each needs the other: the words had been waiting for the music to complete them. When Olivier asks whose poem it is now, his or Flamand's, she answers that it has now become hers.

La Roche calls on Olivier to make a cut in the play and Flamand, alone with the countess, is able to declare his passion. She agrees to meet him the next morning in the library to tell him her decision. She orders chocolate to be served and the count enters, overjoyed at the charming Clarion's enthusiasm for his acting. The countess reminds him of his philosophy of living for the moment and warns him not to get carried away. When the others come back, La Roche offers to entertain the company with his singers and dancers.

As they watch the ballerina, Olivier and Clarion exchange a few sharp words on their past affair and the count's obvious interest in her. When the count suggests that the dance is superior to the music, Flamand refutes the idea. He and Olivier continue their perennial debate about the supremacy of words or music, with La Roche interpolating his claim for the superiority of the theatre, which is the symbol of reality and the mistress of all the arts which are her servants.

The conversation turns to opera, whose absurdities are deplored by the count. Clairon and Olivier agree. Even Gluck, claims Olivier, treats poetry like music's stepchild. The countess asks to hear La Roche's singers as an example of the bel canto style and they sing a duet. The count offers to escort Clairon, who has to return to Paris, and after some badinage, she consents.

Pressed by Olivier, Flamand and the countess, La Roche outlines his tableau of the birth of Pallas Athene from the head of Zeus, which excites the derision of Olivier and Flamand. To soothe his feelings the countess asks about the second part, but his description of the lavish tableau of the Fall of Carthage provokes their mirth even more and both Olivier and Flamand wish to veto the idea.

La Roche bursts into a long defence of his art and his contribution to it, and his search for the great new work, which he invites them to provide for him. The countess takes up his words ansd tells the rivals to combine forces and write an opera, to be produced by La Roche.

Despite the groans of the count, they begin to discuss the practicalities, brushing aside La Roche's suggestions as old-fashioned; Flamand says they are looking for an entirely new style of opera. They discuss and reject as subjects Ariadne, Daphne and the Trojan War, but it is the count who provides the unexpected solution: write something about themselves and their own experiences, an opera embodying the occurences of that very day.

After Clairon and the count set off for Paris, Olivier goes off to write the libretto. When the room is empty servants tidy it and discuss the affairs of their masters: the count is eager for a love affair and the countess is in love, but unable to decide with whom. The major-domo, lighting the chandeliers, is surprised by the sudden appearance, from the direction of the private theatre where the rehearsal had been taking place, of Monsieur Taupe, the prompter, who had gone to sleep during the rehearsal and been left asleep by the others. He explains his importance to the progress of the drama - everyone depends on him.

The major-domo delivers a message to the countess from Olivier, who wishes to see her to find out the ending of the opera. She gives the message that he is to meet her in the library the next day at 11 o'clock, the same assignation she gave earlier to Flamand. They will meet each other, but she will not be there. She is still unable to decide whether it is the words or the music that moves her most deeply and refuses to make a decision in favor of either. She sings the sonnet to herself and concludes that she cannot find an ending for the opera that is not trivial.

Richard Strauss:
Elektra

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Aug 91

The inner courtyard of the palace of Mycenae

Elektra is prevented from carrying out her customary mourning of her father by the presence of the maids, who spitefully discuss her behavior. Only one stands up for her, admiring her as a king's daughter and pitying the way she is treated, but she is forced inside by the overseer and beaten.

When the courtyard is clear, Elektra invokes the shade of her father Agamemnon, murdered by his wife Klytmnestra and her lover Aegisth on his return from Troy. She calls on him to appear to her, promising that she, her sister Chrysothemis and their brother Orest will celebrate his funeral rites when his death has been avenged.

Chrysothemis comes to warn Elektra that Klytmnestra and Aegisth are planning to shut her away in a tower. Chrysothemis, less obsessed with revenge than Elektra, longs to escape the oppressive atmosphere of the palace and lead a normal life, marry and bear a child, even if only to a peasant.

She warns Elektra to avoid Klytmnestra, who has dreamed that her exiled son Orest is pursuing her to avenge his father, and is afraid, being most to be feared in that state. But Elektra decides to confront her mother and stands her ground as Chrysothemis runs away. Klytmnestra, supported by her confidante and trainbearer, without whose aid she seems scarcely able to support herself, at first abuses Elektra, but then, misreading Elektra's double-edged answers, sends away her attendants, ignoring their warnings that Elektra is baiting her. She asks if Elektra knows a remedy against bad dreams, believing that Elektra will tell her what form of sacrifice she must make. She does not understand when Elektra tells her that when the appropriate sacrifice has been made she will indeed dream no longer.

Passing abruptly from the cryptic answer that the sacrifice must be made by someone who is a stranger yet part of the household, Elektra asks when Orest will be allowed to return from exile. Klytmnestra answers that he is weak in the head, but Elektra taunts her with being afraid of him and reveals that the blood which must flow is hers, describing in detail the vengeance Orest will take. Klytmnestra's terror is changed to exultation when the confidante comes form the palace and whispers to her. Elekara does not understand until Chrysothemis runs out crying that Orest is dead; two strangers, and old man and a young one, have brought the news. A servant rides out to tell Aegisth.

Elektra decides that the task of vengeance must now fall on her and Chrysothemis, but all her flattery of her sister's strength and her promise to prepare her marriage bed and serve her like a slave are not enough to sway her. Chryosthemis, who only wants to escape, runs away and Elektra calls a curse after her. Deciding to act alone, Elektra begins to dig up the axe with which Agamemnon was murdered and which she has preserved for the deed of vengeance.

Realising that the young stranger is watching her, she reacts angrily, regretting that he should be alive while Orest is dead. He gradually realises who she is, but even when the servants fall at his feet, she does not realise that this is Orest until he tells her. Her ecstatic welcome is cut short by the tutor's warning that the noise will give them away. He tells Orest that Klytmnestra is alone in the palace, without a man to defend her.

Orest goes inside and Elektra is distressed that she failed to give him the axe. Klytmnestra's shriek rings out and Elektra calls on Orest to strike again. Chrysothemis and the maids run out of the palace in confusion.

They run back inside in fear as Aegisth arrives. He is puzzled by Elektra's unaccustomed obsequious greeting and her offer to light his way indoors. He goes in and is killed by Orest. The women rush out again in confusion and there is fighting between Orest's followers and those remaining loyal to Aegisth, ending in the victory of the former. Chrysothemis calls to Elektra that Orest has returned and killed Aegisth. Elektra is unable to move from the spot, finally bursting into a dance of exultation and collapsing as Chrysothemis beats on the door and calls Orest.

Richard Strauss:
Die Frau ohne Schatten

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Nov 96

ACT I

The Emperor's gardens

The Nurse is visited by a Spirit Messenger sent by the Spirit King Keikobad to check whether the Empress has a shadow. The Empress is the daughter of Keikobad, who had given her a magic talisman enabling her to transform herself into any form she chose. It was while in the form of a white gazelle that she was hunted by the Emperor and struck down by his falcon. She regained her human form and they were married, but the talisman carried a curse, which she has forgotten, threatening that her husband will be turned to stone and she will return to her father if she fails to win a shadow, that is, become pregnant.

A year has passed and she has not conceived, as she and the Emperor are so wrapped in one another that they have not sought to produce children. The Messenger grants a delay of three days, but the Emperor tells the Nurse that he will be probably be absent for three days, hunting for his falcon, which had flown off when he wounded it in his anger at its attack on the gazelle/Empress.

The Empress laments her husband's absence and her inability, since she has lost the talisman, to transform herself again. The lost falcon returns and weeps because, as it tells the Empress, if she casts no shadow, the Emperor must turn to stone. She now remembers that these were the words, carved on the talisman, and asks the nurse how she can obtain a shadow. With apparent reluctance, the Nurse answers that it is possible to buy shadows from mortal beings. Though she paints a grim picture of the world of men, she is unable to resist the Empress' plea to take her there to find a shadow.

The Dyer's house

The three deformed brothers of the Dyer are fighting, but when the Dyer's Wife throws water over them, they turn on her. In answer to her complaints and threat to leave the house, Barak says that it is his responsibility to feed and care for his brothers. She is discontented and blames him for not having made her pregnant. He answers her vituperations calmly and benignly, but does not succeed in soothing her.

The Empress and the Nurse appear, disguised as serving maids, the latter pretending to be amazed at the beauty of the Dyer's Wife, who is at first angry at this flattery, but becomes intrigued when the Nurse speaks of a bargain by which she can obtain her heart's desires: if she will renounce her shadow, she will have slaves, fine clothes and many young lovers. The Nurse transforms the poor hut into a rich pavilion, summons slaves to adorn the wife and shows her her reflection in a mirror. She tells the wife that by renouncing the idea of child-bearing, of which she paints a gruesome picture, simply by selling her shadow, the wife will achieve a life of love and luxury. When Barak is heard returning for his supper, his wife says she will refuse to sleep with him, and the Nurse splits the conjugal bed into two parts and summons fish to appear in the pan, from which, strangely, the voices of unborn children beg their mother to let them in.

The wife tells the dyer that he must sleep alone, while her "cousins," who have come to serve her, will sleep at her feet. Although distressed, he takes it philosophically. Nightwatchmen bless the procreative love of husband and wife.

ACT II

The Dyer's House

As soon as the Dyer leaves for the market the next morning the Nurse offers to send a messenger for the Wife's secret lover. Disconcerted because there is no such person, the wife confesses that she had once looked with interest at a young man she passed in the street. Using her magic arts, the Nurse summons the shape of a young man. The Empress, who had previously been eager to obtain the shadow, is now repelled by the means used to achieve it and distressed by the apparent corruptibility of mankind.

The wife is embarrassed at this granting of wishes she scarcely knew she had. The young man disappears when Barak returns, laden with food and followed by a troop of beggar children, whom he joyfully feeds, along with his brothers. Again he turns away with a mild answer the discontented reproaches of his wife.

The Emperor's falcon house in a wood

The Emperor has found his lost falcon and followed it to the falcon house. He has received a message from the Empress that she will be spending the three days of his absence there, alone except for the Nurse. But he senses the aura of humanity surrounding his wife. Believing that she has lied to him, he thinks of killing her, but is unable to bring himself to do so and leaves sadly.

The Dyer's house

Barak is at work and his wife and the Nurse impatiently await his departure. He asks for a drink and the Nurse gives a cup to the Empress who hands it to him. He falls asleep, but his wife is angry when she realises that he has been drugged, and tries to rouse him. She accuses the Nurse of spying out her deepest secrets and putting ideas into her head. Although apparently not averse to the idea of the young lover, she wants nothing to do with the Nurse's machinations.

Nonetheless the Nurse summons up the young man and the wife seems inclined to listen to his wooing, but suddenly draws back and, assisted by the Empress, shakes Barak awake, blaming him for sleeping and leaving her at the mercy of thieves.

The Emperor's bedroom in the falcon house

The Empress sleeps restlessly, haunted by the memory of Barak's eyes, aware that she has sinned against him. She dreams that she sees the Emperor turning to stone, only his eyes crying for help, and blames herself.

The Dyer's house

Although it is mid-day, darkness is falling. The Nurse realises that powers greater than hers are at work. The Dyer's Wife finds the house unbearable, and Barak feels weighed down. The Empress, moved by his great humanity, decides to remain among mankind.

The wife tries again to provoke her husband, hinting at the adventures she has been experiencing and finally announcing that she will not have children, having renounced her shadow as a sign of this. As it is seen that she really has lost her shadow, Barak raises a sword to her and she falls at his feet, swearing that she has not sinned against him, only thought about it, but begging him to kill her. The Empress refuses to take the shadow, which has blood on it. A river rises, Barak and his wife are swallowed up by the earth and the Nurse leads the Empress to a boat.

ACT III

An underground vault, divided by a wall

Barak and his wife are on different sides of the wall, unable to communicate, each regretting their estrangement.

A rocky terrace

The Empress and the Nurse are carried by a boat to the entrance to a temple, where the Spirit Messenger awaits them. The Nurse tries to resist, but the Empress knows that she is called to judgment by her father. The door leads to the Water of Life. The Nurse warns her against it, but she believes she has to sprinkle the Emperor with it, to save him from turning to stone. Declaring that she now belongs with mankind, she rejects the Nurse and goes through the gate. The Nurse is unable to follow her and vindictively misleads Barak and his wife as they search for one another. She tries to save the Empress from her fate, but is banished to earth and curses Barak and his wife.

The Empress awaits her father's judgment, resisting the temptation to drink the Water of Life for the same reason as she rejected the shadow, because it has blood in it. She sees her husband turned to stone, but still has the strength to refuse to accept the shadow at the expense of the happiness of others. The spell is broken and the Emperor returns to life and the Empress throws a shadow. The voices of unborn children are heard calling to them.

A beautiful landscape

Barak and his wife can see one another, but they are on the opposite sides of a ravine. Her shadow turns into a golden bridge. Both couples rejoice and look forward to their children.

Richard Strauss:
Der Rosenkavalier

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Sep 91

ACT I

The Marschallin's bedroom

Rising reluctantly from the bed where they have spent the night together, the Marschallin and Octavian are breakfasting when raised voices outside make the Marscahallin fear that her husband, supposedly far away hunting, has suddenly returned.

Octavian hides, dresses himself in female garments and presents himself to the Marschallin as her maid from the country when the intruder, the Marschallin's country cousin, Baron Ochs von Lerchenau, bursts in. Octavian's attempts to creep out are thwarted by the baron, who attempts to make an assignation with "Mariandel" at the same time as he explains his errand. He has come about his forthcoming marriage to Sophie Faninal, who is young and beautiful and has a rich father, who, however, has only recently been ennobled; but Ochs is satisfied that he has enough noble blood for two.

He has come to ask the Marschallin to choose a young relative to take a silver rose to Sophie as a token of betrothal, and for a recommendation to her notary, who is expected at her levee. His attempts to grab Mariandel cause the Marschallin to remark that his engagement has not cramped his style, and he boasts that he has no intention of curtailing his amorous exploits, adding that he keeps one of his bastard sons as his body servant. When the Marschallin suggests Octavian as the rose-bearer and shows him a picture, he is struck by the resemblance to Mariandel and the Marschallin has to pretend that "she" is Octavian's bastard sister, to forestall Ochs' curiosity when he meets Octavian.

At the levee, the Marschallin - among other things - has her hair done, gives alms to three noble orphans, refuses a gossip sheet offered by Valzacchi, an Italian intriguer, and listens to an Italian tenor, whose song is interrupted by the baron's arguments with the notary over the marriage settlement.

Complaining that her hairdresser has made her look old, the Marschallin sends everyone away. Before leaving, Ochs manages to ask Valzacchi and his accomplice Annina to arrange for him to meet Mariandel, a commission they accept eagerly despite the fact that they have no idea who he means. Leopold, the body servant, brings the silver rose. The Marschallin reflects on the complacency of Ochs, about to marry a young girl with money, but confident he is the one conferring the favor. She remembers how she was taken straight from the convent and thrust into marriage.

Octavian, returning in his own clothes, finds her mood changed, as she tells him how she feels time passing and herself growing old. When he tries to cheer her up, she says she knows that one day he will leave her for someone younger and more beautiful. Sweeping aside his protestations, she sends him away, but then is sorry because they have parted without a kiss. She sends servants ro recall him, but he is already out of sight. She calls for her little black servant Mahomet and gives him the silver rose to take to Octavian.

ACT II

The salon in Faninal's house

Sophie tries to remain calm amid the excited comments of her duenna and the frenzied household preparations. Octavian arrives and presents the rose to Sophie. Both remain transfixed with eyes only for one another. They make polite conversation until Ochs is presented by Faninal. Sophie is repelled by his pockmarked complexion and coarse blandishments and Octavian is barely able to contain his anger. Faninal and Ochs withdraw to sign the contract, but Octavian and Sophie are prevented from coming to an understanding by the presence of her duenna.

She, however, is called away to quell the disturbance caused by Ochs' drunken servants terrorising the maids, and Sophie confides to Octavian that she will not marry Ochs. They confess their love, but as they kiss, Annina and Valzacchi creep up, grab them and call for the baron. He is unconcerned, having given Octavian permission to warm Sophie up, and even when Octavian tells him that Sophie does not like him, he only remarks that she will soon learn to; so Octavian draws his sword and insults him, forcing to draw his own sword. Ochs is lightly wounded in the arm, but makes a great fuss. Faninal tries to soothe him and threatens Sophie that she will either marry him (alive or dead) or spend her life in a convent. Octavian is obliged to leave.

Bandaged and supplied with wine, Ochs becomes more cheerful. Annina brings him a note from Mariandel, offering an assignation for the next night. He ignores her pointedly outstretched hand.

ACT III

A private room in an inn

With the assistance of Valzacchi and Annina, Octavian, wearing his Mariandel costume over his ordinary clothes, prepares the scene for the discomfiture of Ochs.

Ochs arrives, and his advances to Mariandel, interspersed with moments of aversion as the face reminds him of his encounter with Octavian, are interrupted by the appearance of heads from trapdoors and windows, culminating in the entry of Annina in disguise, representing herself as his deserted wife and accompanied by children screaming "Papa!" Ochs, who has lost his wig, loses his head and calls for the police; but when the police commissioner arrives, he is unable to provide an acceptable explanation for his dubious situation.

He claims that Mariandel is his fiancee, Sophie Faninal, but her father (sent for by Octavian) arrives at that moment. Faninal identifies Ochs as his prospective son-in-law, but disclaims Mariandel. Sophie leads her father outside and the Marschallin (summoned by a message from Ochs) appears. Sophie brings a message from her father repudiating the marriage, and Octavian, now in his own clothes, nervously tries to explain Sophie's identity to the Marschallin.

The Marschallin dismisses the commissioner with the explanation that it has all been a farce, then sends Ochs packing, firmly reminding him that he is a gentleman, when the realisation that Octavian and Mariandel are one and the same sets him speculating. He leaves, pursued by Annina and screaming children and the innkeepr and others demanding payment. Left between Sophie, who fears that their love might be part of the farce, and the Marschallin, Octavian is undecided, but finally goes to Sophie when the Marschallin advises him to follow his heart. Reassuring the nervous Sophie, the Marschallin, true to her vow to give up Octavian gracefully when the time comes, withdraws and leaves them together.

Richard Strauss:
Salome

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

May 89

A terrace in Herod's palace

Narraboth, captain of the guard, in charge of the prophet Jokanaan, who is imprisoned in a cistern,watches the Princess Salome at a banquet inside the palace. His friend, the page of Queen Herodias, fears the consequences of this fixation on Salome.

The voice of Jokanaan can be heard proclaiming the coming of Christ. One of the guards wants him silenced, but the other explains that he is a gentle and holy man. He tells a visiting Cappadocian that the prophet came from the desert where he had been followed by a great multitude.

Oppressed by the atmosphere and disturbed by the way Herod looks at her, Salome runs out from the banquet in time to hear another utterance from Jokanaan. Is this, she asks, the prophet of whom the Tetrarch is afraid and who has spoken against her mother? Narraboth is evasive, but does tell her that the prophet is quite a young man. She wishes to see him and when she learns that the Tetrarch has forbidden it she persuades the infatuated Narraboth to give the order for the prisoner to be brought out.

As he emerges, Jokanaan denounces the abominations of Herod and Herodias. Salome is fascinated and ignores Narraboth's entreaties that she leave. Jokanaan, suddenly aware of her, also demands that she go, but she answers proudly that she is Salome, daughter of Herodias. He orders her to stand back, as her mother has filled the earth with her iniquities. Salome begs him to speak again, and he orders her to leave him and go into the desert and seek out the Son of Man.

Ignoring Narraboth's entreaties, and infatuated with Joakanaan, she begs to be allowed to touch his white body. He refuses angrily and she declares that his body is loathsome and leprous; instead, she is enamored of his black hair. When he spurns her again, she says that his hair is horrible, but she is in love with his mouth, and begs him to let her kiss it. "Never," he replies, and the distraught Narraboth kills himself with his sword, unheeded by Salome, who continues to beg for the mouth of Jokanaan. He replies that she must seek out Christ, who alone can save her from her sins; but when she persists, he curses her and retires into the cistern.

Herod appears on the terrace, looking for Salome, followed by Herodias, who tells him that he looks at Salome too much. He slips in the blood of Narraboth and orders the body removed. In a nervous state, he claims he hears the rushing of a great wind, but Herodias tells him he is sick. He offers Salome wine, so that he may drain the cup; fruit, which he will finish, and her mother's throne, but she answers in turn that she is not hungry, thirsty or tired. Herod is aggrieved, but Herodias approves her daughter's replies.

The voice of Jokanaan is heard proclaiming the imminence of the wrath of God and Herodias demands that he be silenced. Herod refuses, claiming that he is a great prophet, and denying Herodias' claim that he is afraid. His insistence that Jokanaan is a great prophet who has seen God provokes a great argument among a party of Jews, aggravated by two Nazarenes who proclaim that the Messiah has come. To calm the storm, Herod asks Salome to dance. She refuses until he promises to give her whatever she asks. Extracting an oath to this effect, she performs the dance of the seven veils.

When she names as her reward the head of Jokanaan on a silver salver, Herodias is jubilant but Herod is aghast and tries to bribe her with alternate treasures, unto half his kingdom and the veil of the temple; but in the face of her determination, has to give way.

As he collapses on his throne, Herodias takes his ring and hands it to the executioner who goes down into the cistern and, after a long silence, emerges with the head. As Salome seizes it exultantly, Herodias looks on with satisfaction, Herod hides his head and the Nazarenes pray. Salome addresses the head with a mixture of triumph, derision and regret, finally kissing the mouth. Herod orders her to be killed and the soldiers crush her with their shields.

Igor Stravinsky:
Oedipus Rex

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Jun 93

PROLOGUE

The speaker introduces himself, explains the relationship between the Latin text and the Greek tragedy by Sophocles (of which it preserves the salient points) and outlines his function as narrator - he relates the events and they are then played out by the soloists and chorus. Oedipus is caught in a snare wrought by higher powers. It has awaited him since birth and he struggles against it in vain.

ACT I

The plague has broken out in Thebes and the chorus entreat their king, Oedipus, who had outwitted the Sphinx, to preserve them from the plague. Oedipus promises to save them and explains that he has sent his brother-in-law Creon to consult the oracle.

The oracle has declared that there is a murderer in Thebes, the killer of the previous king, Laius. When he has been found and driven out, the plague will end. Oedipus promises to search Thebes for the murderer. As he, the renowned Oedipus, solved the riddle of the Sphinx, so too will he be able to solve this riddle. He interrogates the blind seer Tiresias, who, aware of the truth, refuses to speak; but when Oedipus accuses him of being the murderer himself, he speaks out: the murderer of Laius is a king, living among them and polluting the city with his guilt.

Arrogantly reminding Teresias of his prowess in solving the riddle of the Sphinx, Oedipus accuses Creon of wishing to be king and Tiresias of being his accomplice. Jocasta, the queen and wife of Oedipus, appears, to the praises of the people.

ACT II

Jocasta rebukes her husband and brother for quarrelling in the stricken city. She does not believe in oracles, since it had been prophesied that her son would kill his father, but Laius was murdered at the crossroads by a stranger. The mention of the crossroads disturbs Oedipus, who killed an old man there as he came from Corinth to Thebes. But Jocasta continues to insist that the oracles have lied. She tries to persuade Oedipus to come inside, but he feels compelled to question an old shepherd who had witnessed the crime. The shepherd arrives at the same time as a messenger from Corinth bringing the news that Polybius, its king, is dead, and revealing that he was not the father of Oedipus, but had adopted him when he was found abandoned in the mountains, his ankles pierced by shackles. The messenger can vouch for this as it was he who found the child. The chorus expects that Oedipus will be revealed to be of divine origin, but the shepherd wishes that the messenger had not revealed this secret. Jocasta, realising the truth, goes inside, and Oedipus fears that she is ashamed of his lowly birth. The shepherd and messenger announce that he is the son of Laius and Jocasta, the murderer of his father and the husband of his mother.

Oedipus, crushed by the revelation, leaves. The messenger announces that Jocasta has hanged herself. Oedipus has blinded himself with her golden pin. Despite their love and pity, the people drive their accursed king from the city.

Igor Stravinsky:
The Rake's Progress

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Aug 83

ACT I

Scene 1. In the garden of Trulove's country cottage

Tom Rakewell and Anne Trulove rejoice in their mutual love, to the disquiet of Anne's father, who has doubts about the stability of Tom's character. His anxiety is increased when he offers Tom a job in the city in a friend's counting house, only to have it refused: Tom does not wish to work for the benefit of others. He believes in fortune, which will reward him without his efforts if it favors him and destroy him in spite of them if it is against him. He wishes he had money.

Nick Shadow appears, as if in answer, with the news that Tom has inherited money from an unknown rich uncle. Tom takes Shadow into his employment and Trulove blesses the lovers. Shadow says that Tom must go to London to attend to the business of his inheritance. When Tom asks what wages Shadow should have he is told that he need pay nothing for a year and a day, at the end of which time Shadow will ask for what is appropriate.

Tom promises to send for Anne and her father when his affairs are settled. Trulove is worried that money so easily acquired will encourage Tom's weakness.

Scene 2. At the brothel of Mother Goose, in London

Shadow puts Tom through a perverse catechism, but Tom is struck dumb when asked to define Love and refuses to go on. He wants to leave, but Shadow puts back the clock to convince him that time is at his disposal and he stays. He sings a melancholy ditty about the betrayal of love.

Mother Goose fights off the admiring whores and leads Tom off as her own prize.

ACT II

Scene 1. Tom's London house

Tom is sated with the pleasures of London, so Shadow suggests he prove that he is free by carrying out the absurd action of marrying Baba the Turk, the bearded lady. Tom agrees.

Scene 2. A street outside Tom's house

Anne has come to London and stands fearfully outside Tom's house. He is carried in in a sedan chair and is disconcerted to see her. He tells her to leave him to his fate and flee London, but is touched by her steadfastness.

When Baba the Turk calls impatiently to him from the sedan chair he is obliged to admit that she is his wife. Anne runs away, but when Baba asks who she is Tom tells her she is only a milkmaid to whom he was in debt.

The crowd clamors for Baba and she unveils, revealing her full black beard.

Scene 3. Inside Tom's house

At breakfast Baba burbles on while Tom sits silent and morose, so she abuses him and accuses him of loving the 'milkmaid' better than her. He silences her by putting a huge wig over her head: she stops in mid-word and sits motionless while Tom decides to rest his oppressed heart in sleep.

While he sleeps Shadow brings in a machine. He puts a piece of china in it and takes out a loaf of bread he had previously inserted. Tom wakes and tells Shadow that he has dreamed of a machine that will turn stones into bread. He is astonished to find that Shadow has produced the very machine he had dreamed of, and plans to redeem his past amd deserve Anne by using it for the benefit of mankind.

Shadow is delighted at this example of Tom's folly, but tells him that he must manufacture the machine in large quantities. He takes him off to find commercial backing for the scheme.

ACT III

Scene 1. As Act II, Scene 3

Baba still sits under her wig, and everything is covered with dust. An auction is about to be held of Tom's possessions, as he has gone bankrupt and ruined many others with his wild scheme.

Anne mingles with the crowd viewing the objects for sale, but no one can give her news of Tom's whereabouts. Sellem the auctioneer sells off a variety of weird objects and is about to offer Baba for sale. But when he removes the wig which covers her, she comes back to life and chases everyone out. She tells Anne that Tom still loves and needs her; she herself will return to the stage.

Sellem concludes the auction. The voices of Tom and Shadow can be heard in the street. Anne rushes out and Baba orders Sellem to bring her carriage.

Scene 2. A graveyard

Shadow has taken Tom to a graveyard beside an open grave to claim his wages, a year and a day having passed. The wage is Tom's soul and Shadow tells him he must kill himself by the stroke of midnight; but then he stops the clock and allows Tom another chance: if he can name three cards correctly, he can go free.

Tom wins, even though Shadow cheats by using the same card twice; but as Shadow sinks into the grave intended for Tom he curses Tom with madness.

Scene 3. Bedlam

Surrounded by other lunatics Tom, thinking that he is Adonis, waits for Venus. When Anne comes to see him the madhouse keeper explains that Tom will only answer to the name of Adonis, so she addresses him as Adonis and he addresses her as Venus and expresses his delight that she has come.

He asks her to sing him a lullaby. He falls asleep and the other lunatics are comforted by the sound. Trulove comes to take Anne away and she consents, saying that Tom no longer needs her.

Arthur Sullivan:
The Gondoliers

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Mar 89

ACT I

The Piazzetta, Venice

The peasant girls of Venice are preparing bouquets of roses for the gondoliers Marco and Giuseppe Palmieri, who have promised to choose their brides today from among the girls. Meanwhile the girls ignore the charms of the other gondoliers. Marco and Giuseppe are blindfolded to choose their brides without bias, but they manage to catch Tessa and Gianetta, who just happen to be the girls they preferred.

The Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro (very shabbily dressed) and their daughter Casilda and the duke's attendant Luiz (treated haughtily by the duchess and Casilda) arrive. The duke explains to his daughter that in infancy she was betrothed to the infant son of the King of Barataria, who has just succeeded to the throne on the death of his father. He has come to see the grand inquisitor to ascertain the whereabouts of the new king. Left alone with Luiz, Casilda runs to his arms, explaining that she has to conceal her love for him by pretending hauteur, though now they must embrace for the last time because of her betrothal to the King of Barataria. They sadly bid one another farewell.

The Duke and Duchess of Plaza-Toro reappear with the grand inquisitor, Don Alhambra del Bolero, who, in response to the duke's suggestion that there is some doubt as to the king's whereabouts, explains that there is no doubt at all: having kidnapped the child to save him from following his father's bigoted religious tenets, he had entrusted him to a gondolier, who had brought him up with his own son of the same age. But the gondolier, addicted to drink, had confused the two children and died without declaring which was which.

So, although Casilda is betrothed to one of the two gondoliers, no one knows which one. But the inquisitor sends Luiz in search of his mother (now married to a brigand), who had nursed the infant king and who will be able to reveal, with the aid of the torture chamber if necessary, his true identity.

The gondoliers and their brides are celebrating their marriage when the inquisitor tells them that one of the gondoliers is really the King of Barataria. Because of the doubt as to which is the king and the fact that the country is in a state of insurrection and needs the immediate presence of the new monarch, the inquisitor has arranged for them to reign jointly, so as to avoid any doubts about the validity of the king's acts.

Marco and Giuseppe are happy to put aside their republican scruples, but their wives are not happy when Don Alhambra bans them from Barataria for the present, though comforted with the thought that one of them will be a queen. The gondoliers, accompanied by their friends, to whom they plan to give posts about the court, depart for Barataria.

ACT II

Pavilion in the Palace of Barataria

The courtiers are playing at various games and take very little notice of the formal address made to them by Marco and Giuseppe, who explain that although considered as one person from a constitutional point of view, they do have two appetites and have been working particularly hard at their new job. The only thing lacking to their happiness is the presence of their wives, who, on cue, appear with their friends.

Their celebrations are interrupted by Don Alhambra, who is scandalised to observe that distinctions of rank are not observed; and when Marco and Giuseppe try to explain their egalitarian principles, he demonstrates, by means of an example, the impossibility of complete equality.

When alone with the joint monarchs, he announces the imminent arrival of Casilda (and parents), explaining for the first time that one of them is in fact married to her. Since Luiz' mother is already in the torture chamber, he does not expect it will be long before the mystery is unravelled. He goes off to inverview her. Tessa and Gianetta, however, have been listening and join Marco and Giuseppe in a fruitless attempt to sort out their problem.

The Plaza-Toros, now resplendently dressed, arrive for Casilda to claim her husband. In answer to Casilda's declaration that she will never love her husband, the duchess, using herself as an example, points out that it is possible to love the most unprepossessing people if one puts one's mind to it. The duke has formed himself into a limited liability company and he and the duchess explain how they have been making themselves into a commercial success. The arrival of Marco and Giuseppe and their obvious lack of the right patrician manner inspire the duke to give them instruction in this.

Then he and the duchess tactfully leave Casilda alone with her husbands, who try to explain that their affections are engaged. While they dither, she tells them that she loves another, and Tessa and Gianetta join their lamentations about their difficult position. Don Alhambra produces Luiz' mother Inez to solve the riddle and she announces that in order to protect the royal baby she had substituted her own son, and so the true king is Luiz - to the joy of all.

Arthur Sullivan:
The Mikado

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Dec 86

ACT I

The courtyard of Ko-Ko's palace

Disguised as a wandering minstrel, Nanki-Poo is in search of Yum-Yum. Having heard that her guardian Ko-Ko, to whom she was betrothed, had been condemned to death, he now hopes to be able to marry her, but his hopes are dashed when he learns that Ko-Ko has been released from gaol and appointed Lord High Executioner.

Ko-Ko makes his grand entrance and is discussing details of his forthcoming marriage with Pooh-Bah when Yum-Yum and her sisters arrive home from school. Yum-Yum admits to Nanki-Poo that she does not love her prospective husband, but has doubts about the suitability of marrying a musician, until he reveals that he is the son of the Mikado, and has fled the court to escape the claim of Katisha to his hand.

Ko-Ko receives an imperial decree that if an execution is not carried out soon, dire punishment will follow. The difficulty of finding a victim is solved by the appearance of Nanki-Poo, about to kill himself in despair because Yum-Yum is to marry Ko-Ko. Ko-Ko offers to let him marry her if he will agree to be publicly executed in a month's time, but the wedding festivities are interrupted by the arrival of Katisha. Only the ingenuity of Yum-Yum prevents Katisha from revealing Nanki-Poo's identity.

ACT II

The garden of Ko-Ko's palace

Yum-Yum prepares for her wedding and tries not to think about the subsequent execution; but even this modified bliss is cut short when Ko-Ko discovers that the wife of an executed man has to be buried alive, so she decides that marriage with Ko-Ko would be the lesser evil.

Nanki-Poo is still determined to die, and when it is announced that the Mikado is on his way and Ko-Ko realises he must perform an execution, he offers himself again; but Ko-Ko confesses his complete inability to kill anything. He then has the idea of merely producing an affidavit to the effect that the execution has taken place, and consents to Nanki-Poo marrying Yum-Yum and leaving the town.

When the Mikado, accompanied by Katisha, arrives, Ko-Ko, assisted by Pitti-Sing and Pooh-Bah, describes the fictitious execution. But this is not what concerns the Mikado. He is looking for his son, and when Katisha discovers his name on the execution warrant, Ko-Ko and his accomplices are condemned to death.

Ko-Ko tells Nanki-Poo he must come back to life, but as this will render him liable to be claimed by Katisha, he refuses unless Ko-Ko marries her himself. He does this and Katisha begs for mercy for the culprits. Nanki-Poo and his bride appear, to show that he is not dead, and Ko-Ko's ingenious explanation that the Mikado's decree is as good as fact is accepted, while Katisha has to be satisfied with him as her husband.

Arthur Sullivan:
Patience

A plot summary from Opera~Opera -- Australasia's independent monthly newspaper of the musical theatre, established in 1978.

Feb 95

ACT I

Outside Castle Bunthorne

Twenty lovesick maidens pine for the love of Bunthorne, an aesthetic poet. Lady Jane informs them that he is not as cold to love as they might think, as he is in love with the milkmaid Patience. Patience, as she tells them on entering, is herself quite untouched by love, a sentiment which she concludes from her observations of the ladies must be very painful. She tells them that the 35th dragoon guards, to whom they were previously engaged, are back in the village, and is amazed at their lack of interest. The dragoons too are amazed to find themselves ignored in favor of a poet.

Bunthorne finishes a poem and reads it to the reluctant Patience. The ladies are impressed but to Patience it sounds like nonsense. The ladies reject the officers because they are not sufficiently aesthetic. Bunthorne soliloquises that his apparent interest in the aesthetic is a sham, born of his love of admiration.

Even when he promises to give up poetry and cut his hair if she wishes, Patience cannot return his love. She asks Lady Angela what love is, having been so far unable to love anyone except a great aunt and a baby boy she played with when herself a baby; and she is so impressed by Angela's explanation of love as the one unselfish passion that she resolves to fall in love at once. She is accosted by the beautiful poet Archibald Grosvenor, who asks her to marry him. Spurning him because she doesn't know him, she is reproached for not recognising her childhood playmate, and realises that she still loves him. But their bliss is cut short when she realises that to love him would be a pleasure, not a duty.

Bunthorne is raffling himself off among the doting damsels when Patience, convinced that loving him would be the height of unselfishness, agrees to marry him. The maidens are about to fall back on the faithful dragoons, when the beautiful Archibald appears and confesses that he is aesthetic; so they all follow him, to the indignation of both Bunthorne and dragoons.

ACT II

A glade

Lady Jane laments that she is not as young as she was. Grosvenor, followed by the ladies who demand he read his poems to them, laments his fatal fascination. Patience tells him she is thoroughly unhappy in love with Bunthorne, but insists it is her duty. All the other ladies have deserted Bunthorne, except Lady Jane, who offers to help him defeat his rival. The colonel, duke and major have decided to join the aesthetic movement and their efforts are appreciated by Lady Angela and Lady Saphir. Bunthorne threatens to curse Grosvenor if he doesn't agree to become ordinary, and Grosvenor, happy at the excuse, agrees.

When Bunthorne tells Patience he has reformed and will become agreeable, she is at first relieved, but then realises that to love him would then be a pleasure not a duty, and when Grosvenor appears transformed into a commonplace young man, she decides she will be able to reconcile her conscience to loving him.

Thwarted, Bunthorne is about to take Jane when the duke, because he is immensely wealthy, decides to confer himself on her as the plainest of the ladies. The other ladies return to their old loves, the other officers, and Bunthorne is left without a bride.


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