Troilus and Cressida
- Michael Kennedy
Opera in three acts by William Walton to a libretto by Christopher Hassall after Geoffrey Chaucer and other sources; London, Covent Garden, 3 December 1954.
Act 1 opens in the citadel of Troy after ten years of war between the Trojans and Greeks. Calkas, the High Priest (bass), tells a group of Trojans that the Delphic Oracle has advised surrender to the Greeks. They are bewildered by this news, as is a young officer, Antenor (baritone), who accuses Calkas of forgery and of being in the Greeks’ pay. The crowd turns on Calkas, who takes refuge in the temple just as Prince Troilus (tenor), son of Priam, the Trojan king, drives them back. He rebukes Antenor and supports Calkas. Antenor ascribes this defence to Troilus’s interest in Calkas’s daughter Cressida (mezzo-soprano), who keeps the altar candles burning.
Troilus admits to himself that Antenor is right and sings of his love for Cressida (‘Child of the wine-dark wave’). Cressida enters, a crimson scarf round her neck. She is a war widow and knows that Calkas is preparing to desert to the Greeks. Her only peace of mind comes from tending the altar....