The Wandering Scholar by Gustav Holst and Riders to the Sea by Ralph Vaughan Williams
Directed by Tiffany Blake, Conducted by Wes Kenney
— Two one act operas by British composers.
The Wandering Scholar, by Gustav Holst, with libretto by Clifford Bax, is based on a tale by Helen Waddell. The story, set in a 13th century farmhouse in France, involves Louis and his wife, Alison, the town priest, Phillippe, who seems to want more than he should from dear Alison, and the poor wandering scholar, Pierre, who uncovers the conspiracy with the priest. The Wandering Scholar was first performed in 1934, but Holst was too sick to hear it live. He died before he had the chance to correct any of the insecurities he had with the score. In 1968, his daughter, Imogen Holst and her friend, Benjamin Britten, edited the score in order to address some of Gustav's earlier concerns.
Vaughan Williams has come to be regarded as one of the finest British composers of the 20th century. Riders to the Sea, a one act opera from a play by J.M. Synge, the story of a family's lament for sons lost at sea off the Donegal coast. It's notable for the orchestral portraits of the sea and the wind, which ultimately lead to the Sinfonia Antartica, and many think it Vaughan Wililams's finest theatrical work. The composer completed the score in 1927, but it was not premiered until 1937 at the Royal College of Music, London.
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‘…The Wandering Scholar is swift-footed and spare of frame. Clifford Bax’s libretto is shapely and amusing, and Holst’s pungent music somehow contrives to give it the flavour of a bawdy epigram.’ —Edmund Tracey, The Observer
‘These melodies retain a certain popular flavour and yet they have real dramatic bite; they are enlivened by vivid turns of phrase, by surprising cross-currents and Holst’s characteristically asymmetrical rhythms to make a witty, compact and attractive work.’ —Robert Henderson, The Musical Times