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William Y. Elias

Opera in two acts (16 scenes) by Josef Tal to a libretto (in Hebrew) by Israel Eliraz; Hamburg, Städtische Oper, 9 November 1971 (in German).

Inspired by an ancient Talmudic legend, and an allegory about totalitarianism, the opera is set in an idyllic, peaceful country. The King (lyric baritone) hates the Queen (mezzo-soprano), whom he married only to prevent war with her father, and is in love with the Landlady (soprano). In Act 1, the devil Ashmedai (tenor) appears one night to the King and suggests that if he, Ashmedai, could rule as king for a year, he could turn the peace-loving citizens into bloodthirsty savages while the King could live happily with the Landlady. The King has such faith in his people that he agrees to the bet, but as soon as Ashmedai assumes the physical traits of the King and ascends the throne the citizens turn into intolerant, aggressive killers. A terrible war breaks out, causing total destruction. In Act 2, Ashmedai has won his bet, but the real King refuses to reclaim the throne because his faith in his people has been shattered. Ashmedai changes into a rooster and is devoured, unknowingly, by the Queen and her entourage. The King returns to his throne but refuses to continue the war, despite the advice of his Son (tenor), the commander of the army, and is lynched by the furious masses. Ashmedai appears to the people but they refuse to believe the truth. In an apocalyptic scene the physical world disintegrates, leaving only the King’s naked body with his anguished, faithful Daughter (soprano) leaning over him....

Article

John S. Powell

Sacred opera in five acts by Marc-Antoine Charpentier to a libretto by François Bretonneau; Paris, Collège Louis-le-Grand, 28 February 1688.

The drama is set in the Holy Lands during biblical times. King Saul (bass), on the eve of his battle against the Philistines, consults a Witch (...

Article

Golem  

Andrew Clements

Opera in two parts (Prelude and legend) by John Casken to a libretto by the composer with Pierre Audi; London, Almeida Theatre, 28 June 1989.

The ancient Jewish legend of the Golem describes how a saviour figure is created to protect the innocent when a community is under threat. Casken’s treatment of the legend relates its main action in flashback. In the Prelude the Maharal (baritone) remembers in old age how, many years before, he had created a golem. Accompanied by six ghostly madrigalists (the other members of the cast), he relives in his imagination the events that led to the death of his creation, while Ometh (countertenor) reminds the Maharal of his own role in the tragedy. The Legend then tells that story in five scenes. The young Maharal creates the Golem (bass-baritone) from clay on the banks of a river, although Ometh, a wounded, Promethean figure, questions his motives. As the Golem learns to talk and to perform everyday tasks, he comes into contact with the townspeople, with Stoikus (tenor), mourning the loss of his own son, and Miriam (soprano), the Maharal’s wife, whom the Golem desires. Ometh arrives and confronts the Maharal: together with the Golem he could drive evil out of the world; the Maharal angrily dismisses him. When the townspeople meet to rise up against their oppression, the Golem unwittingly interrupts them; after being taunted he kills Stoikus. He is briefly united with Ometh, but the Maharal intervenes, only to discover the murder and what his creation has done....

Article

Elizabeth Forbes

Conte populaire d’Alsace in three acts by Camille Erlanger to a libretto by Henri Cain and Pierre-Barthélemy Gheusi after Erckmann-Chatrian’s novel of the same title; Paris, Opéra-Comique (Salle Favart), 11 April 1900.

Erlanger’s second opera and first great success, Le Juif polonais, based on the same legend as ...

Article

A. Dean Palmer

Grosse romantische Oper in three acts by Heinrich August Marschner to a libretto by Wilhelm August Wohlbrück after various plays, themselves based on Walter Scott’s novel Ivanhoe; Leipzig, Stadttheater, 22 December 1829.

After reviewing a performance of J. F. von Auffenberg’s play Der Löwe von Kurdistan...

Article

Tito  

Carl B. Schmidt

Melodramma in three acts by Antonio Cesti to a libretto by Nicolò Beregan ; Venice, Teatro di SS Giovanni e Paolo, 13 February 1666.

Beregan probably formed the outline of his plot from Flavius Josephus’s account of the Jewish War and C. Suetonius Tranquillus’s account of Emperor Titus in ...