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The Force of Destiny English version by Jeremy Sams Opera in 4 acts. Libretto by Franceso Maria Piave, after Ángel de Saavedra y Ramírez de Baquedano.
Vocal material only Still widely performed today, La forza del destino was first performed in St. Petersburg on 10 November 1862.
The opera was subsequently revised by Verdi, and the version which later premiered in Milan (February 1869) has become the "standard" performance version. The most important changes were a new overture, the addition of a final scene to Act 3, and a new ending - in which Don Alvaro remains alive, instead of throwing himself off a cliff.
SYNOPSIS: Mid-eigteenth-century, Spain and Italy. Don Alvaro, a young nobleman from South America, falls in love with Leonora, daughter of the Marquis of Calatrava, who is vehemently against the union. Alvaro accidentally shoots the Marquis who dies, cursing his daughter, who takes refuge in a monastery. Meanwhile, Alvaro joins the army and becomes friendly with Don Carlo, unaware that he is Leonora’s brother. When they become aware of each other’s identities, Don Carlo is determined to avenge his father’s death. Alvaro fatally wounds Don Carlo in a fight and calls for help. Leonora arrives to tend to her brother, who stabs her in the heart.
Macbeth English version by Jeremy Sams Opera in 4 acts. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave with additions by Andrea Maffei, based on the play by William Shakespeare.
Vocal material only Macbeth (1847, later revised) was Verdi's tenth of almost thirty operas, and written just before the great successes of 1850 to 1853 (Rigoletto, Il trovatore and La traviata) that propelled the composer into universal fame. Macbeth was the first of Shakespeare's plays that Verdi adapted for the operatic stage, and which provided the composer with lifelong inspiration.
A Masked Ball English version by Edmund Tracey Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Antonia Somma.
Vocal material only An opera from Verdi’s middle period, Un ballo in maschera combines political intrigue, forbidden love and assassination, and is loosely based on the assassination of King Gustav III of Sweden, who was shot while attending a masked ball. The original libretto retained the names of some of the historical figures involved, the conspiracy, and the killing at the ball. However, before becoming the opera as we it know today, it was forced to undergo a series of transformations, caused by a combination of regulations and political censorship.
SYNOPSIS: Riccardo, the Governor of Boston, is planning a masked ball. He is in love with his secretary, Renato’s wife, Amelia. Renato warns Riccardo of an assassination plot. Amelia visits a fortune-teller, Ulrica, to help her try and forget her feelings for Riccardo. Later, Riccardo and Renato (both disguised) also visit Ulrica.
Ulrica tells Riccardo that the next person that he shakes hands with will be the person who kills him. Riccardo and Renato laugh, and they shake hands. Later, Amelia and Riccardo meet and confess their love. Renato arrives to warn Riccardo of the gang outside that awaits him. Amelia covers her face, hoping that her husband will not recognize her. Riccardo asks Renato to take Amelia, but to not reveal her face to anyone. In the ensuing confusion, Amelia’s identity is revealed. Renato vows vengeance, and decides to side with the conspirators. At the ball, Renato and the two conspirators draw lots to see who shall kill Riccardo. Renato forces Amelia to draw the name, and she draws Renato’s. Amelia sees and recognizes Riccardo at the ball. She pleads with him to leave, but Renato shoots Riccardo. He dies, begging that his death not be avenged.
La Traviata English version by Edmund Tracey Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave, based on the novel by Alexandre Dumas fils.
Vocal material only One of Verdi’s greatest and most popular works, as well as being one of the most popular of all operas, La traviata is based on the 1848 novel La dame aux Camélias by Alexandre Dumas, and was first performed on 6 March 1853 in Venice. Today, the opera has rightly become a staple of the standard operatic repertoire.
SYNOPSIS: Paris, eighteenth/nineteenth century. Violetta, a courtesan, has many devotees. Amongst them is Alfredo Germont, a young man from a respectable Provencal family. He loves her sincerely, and eventually Violetta yields to Alfredo, and abandons her dissolute life to live with him in a country villa outside Paris. Later, Alfredo learns that Violetta has sold all her property in the city to meet their expenses, and - conscience-smitten
- he hurries to Paris to prevent the sacrifice. In his absence, Alfredo’s father visits Violetta, and, by appealing to her love for his son, he persuades her to give Alfredo up. She returns to her old life, making a favoured companion of the Baron Duphol. In Paris, at a masked ball, Alfredo finds Violetta again, and is challeneged to a duel by Baron Duphol The baron is wounded. Violetta dies in Alfredo’s arms, who had hurried to her side on learning the truth, only to find her suffering the last agonies of disease
Vocal material only The Ring Cycle is a series of four operas based loosely on characters from Scandinavian and Germanic history, and the epic peom Nibelungenlied. Wagner wrote both the libretto and music over the course of about twentysix years, from 1848 to 1874; and although the individual operas (Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried and Götterdämmerung) are performed as works in their own right, Wagner intended them to be performed in a series.
SYNOPSIS: The plot revolves around a magic ring that grants the power to rule the world, forged by the dwarf Alberich from gold he stole from the Rhinemaidens in the river Rhine. Several mythic figures struggle for possession of the Ring, including Wotan (Odin), the chief of the gods. Wotan's scheme, spanning generations, to overcome his limitations, drives much of the action in the story. His grandson, the hero Siegfried, wins the Ring, as Wotan intended, but is eventually betrayed and slain. Finally, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, Siegfried's lover and Wotan's estranged daughter, returns the Ring to the Rhinemaidens. In the process, the Gods and their home, Valhalla, are destroyed.
This extended work in eight sections for women's voices, depicting the joys and sorrows of women's existence through their part in episodes in English history, is "a kind of apotheosis of the village pageant" [Financial Times]. The scenes are linked by a chorus of embroiderers, whose work illustrates the story.
Dunstan and the Devil Opera in 1 act (4 scenes). Libretto by Geoffrey Dunn.
2 Pianos / Perc An "opera with radiance” with “a direct, scrupulously judged score" [The Times], Dunstan and the Devil presents the story of St. Dunstan and his struggle with the wily Devil. Originally written for non-professional forces, it has had many school, student and workshop productions.
The Growing Castle Chamber opera in 2 acts (8 scenes). Libretto by the composer, based on Strindberg’s A Dream Play.
Pno / Hpscd / Chime bars / Perc Strindberg's allegory becomes a chamber opera for four singers and minimal accompaniment. "A play of some bitterness but also one of beauty and conviction" [Tempo]. Performed in many countries, The Growing Castle is "a rewarding work for the performers, with flatteringly singable vocal parts throughout" [Musical Times].
The Happy Prince Children’s opera in 1 act. Libretto by the composer, based on the story by Oscar Wilde.
2 Pianos / Perc / String Quintet (opt.) A beautiful setting of Oscar Wilde's fable, staged at the Metropolitan Opera Festival and the Aspen Opera Theater Center. "Ravishingly beautiful tunes" [Times Educational Supplement]. "The warmth and honesty of Williamson's personality light this little opera... attractive, fresh, romantic" [Financial Times].
Julius Ceasar Jones Children’s opera in 2 acts. Libretto by Geoffrey Dunn.
1(dbl Picc).1(dbl Ca).1(dbl Bcl).1. / 18.104.22.168. / Perc / Hp / Pno / Str Alternative orch: 2 Pianos / Perc This story, with echoes of William Golding’s Lord of the Flies, is set in a suburban back garden, and inspired one of Williamson's most melodic scores. "More than any other British composer today, his natural style allows him to rise to the operatic occasion in full-blown melody that stands not as an interpolation to the rest but as a natural culmination" [The Guardian].
Lucky Peter’s Journey Comic opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Edmund Tracey, based on the fairy tale by August Strindberg.
2(2 dbl Picc).2(2 dbl Ca).2(2 dbl Bcl).2(2 dbl Cbsn). / 22.214.171.124. / Perc / Hp / Str Peter, father of Peer Gynt, sets out on a journey of trials throughout the world, becoming rich and famous before learning the value of true and selfless love. Written as a Christmas offering for Sadler's Wells Opera, Lucky Peter "deserves a very successful journey" and is a "light, delightful entertainment" [Financial Times].
Our Man in Havana Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Sidney Gilliatt, based on the novel by Graham Greene.
1(dbl Picc).1(dbl Ca).1(dbl Bcl).asax.1(dbl Cbsn). / 126.96.36.199. / 2 Perc / Pno (dbl Cel) / Elec Gtr / Hp / Str An appealing adaptation of the famous Graham Green novel, Our Man in Havana is the most frequently staged of Williamson's full-length operas. "Leaves no doubt that Williamson is a true man of the theatre. The success of the pit-stage relationship, with all that this implies in matters of thematicism and musical continuity, is a striking feature of the opera" [Tempo].
The Red Sea Children’s opera in 1 act. Libretto by the composer.
Melodic instruments and Bb transposing instruments / Perc / Kybd / Hp Williamson's adaptation of the familiar biblical story, for young performers. "45 minutes of skilfully-written music tell the story of Israelite deliverance and Egyptian destruction. The composer is an old hand at providing music for young people" [Music in Education]. "Williamson at his best" [Music and Musicians].
The Violins of St. Jacques Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by William Chappell, adapted from the novel by Patrick Leigh Fermor.
3(2&3 dbl Picc). 2+Ca. 2+Bcl. 2+Cbsn. / 188.8.131.52. / Timp / 3 Perc / Org / 2 Hp / Str + Stage Music Based on Patrick Leigh Fermor's story of the lost French-colonial island of St. Jacques. Williamson "has turned the stylised and bejewelled novel of Fermor into a richly emotional drama", and "like Puccini, he has a natural flair for creating atmosphere" [The Guardian].
Wolf-Ferrari’s effervescent comic opera Der Liebhaber als Arzt/ L'Amore Medico opened in Dresden in December 1913.
SYNOPSIS: Arnoldo's daughter, Lucinda, longs for love, but her possessive father keeps her secluded from any possible suitors. He thinks that her ailment is merely physical and will pass. Lisetta, Lucinda's maid, thinks she's lovesick, lonely, and in need of a husband. Clitandro loves Lucinda and serenades her. She loves him too, but does not know what to do. Lisetta tells Arnoldo that Lucinda has become ill. Arnoldo sends for help and asks for the best doctors. Four doctors prescribe four different courses of treatment for Lucinda. Lisetta insults all of them, so that they leave, and calls for Clitandro. Disguised as a doctor, he is introduced to Arnolfo, and brings Lucinda flowers. Clitandro reports his diagnosis to Arnoldo: Lucinda is having love-hallucinations, for which the only remedy is a mock marriage. He offers to ‘pretend’ to be the bridegroom, and Arnoldo consents. Clitandro arranges a wedding, and an actual marriage takes place.
Inquisitive Women English version by A. J. and P. Coleman Comic opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Luigi Sugana, after Carlo Goldoni.
2 (2 dbl Picc).2.2.2. / 184.108.40.206. / Timp / Perc / Hp / Str + Stage Music First performed in Munich in November 1903, Die neugierigen Frauen/Le donne curiose is one of Wolf-Ferrari’s earliest operas, and one of the works that helped him to achieve international fame.
SYNOPSIS: Set in Venice, and based loosely on Carlo Goldoni's play of the same name, the opera tells of a group of women and the doings of their husbands and sweethearts at a club from which the women are excluded. A series of incidents follow in which the women (the wives by rifling the pockets of their husbands, the maidens by wheedling, cajoling, and playing upon the feelings of their sweethearts) obtain the keys of the club-room, and effect an entrance; only to find that instead of gambling, harbouring mistresses, seeking the philosopher's stone, or digging for treasure - as is variously suspected - the men are enjoying an innocent supper!
The Jewels of the Madonna English version by Claude Aveling Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by C. Zangarini and E. Golisciani.
2+Picc. 2+Ca. 2+Bcl. 3+Cbsn. / 220.127.116.11. / Timp / Perc / Pno / Org / Cel / Mands / Gtrs / Hp / Str + Stage Music After the success of his comedies, Wolf-Ferrari turned to verismo. I gioielli della Madonna/Der Schmuck der Madonna was first performed in Berlin in December 1911. Though the first performance was in German, the opera is usually performed in Italian (Wolf-Ferrari stated that his operas were often first given in German simply because he had a German publisher.) The opera was in the regular international repertory for many years, having featured in the repertoires of both the Metropolitan Opera and Covent Garden, and is one of the composer’s most colourful and expansive scores - which includes writing for guitars, mandolins, specific Neapolitan instruments, and even a wind machine! Though he did not write the libretto, Wolf-Ferrari himself came up with the (somewhat controversial) Neopolitan story, which includes love between a brother and his adopted sister, and implied criticism of the Catholic Church. The opera’s two colourful Intermezzi and the Dance of the Camorrists are world-famous concert pieces.
School for Fathers English version by Edward J. Dent Opera in 3 acts. Libretto by Giuseppe Pizzolato after Carlo Goldoni.
2(2 dbl Picc).2.2.2. / 18.104.22.168. / Timp / Perc / Hp / Str Arguably Wolf-Ferrari’s most successful full-length work, I quattro rusteghi/Die Vier Grobiane was first performed in Munich on March 19, 1906, and is still regularly performed, often called “a comedy of bad manners”!