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date: 22 November 2019

Pilgrim’s Progress, Thelocked

  • Michael Kennedy


Morality in a prologue, four acts and an epilogue by Ralph Vaughan Williams to his own libretto after John Bunyan’s allegory, with interpolations from the Bible and verse by Ursula Vaughan Williams; London, Covent Garden, 26 April 1951.

Although an agnostic, Vaughan Williams had a strong sense of music as a social force, involving himself in church music and regarding it (in the days before radio) as one of the few regular musical focal points for a community. Early in his career, he planned to make an opera from Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress, not because he shared Bunyan’s religious outlook but because he regarded it as a universal dramatic allegory. In the final version of his opera (which he preferred to call a morality), he altered the name of the protagonist from Christian to Pilgrim because ‘I want the idea to be universal and appeal to anybody who aims at the spiritual life whether he is Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Shintoist or 5th Day Adventist’ (as he wrote to Rutland Boughton in ...

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