- Stephen Banfield
Opera in three acts by Arthur Bliss to a libretto by J. B. Priestley; London, Covent Garden, 29 September 1949.
Set in a Provençal village in 1836, the action concerns the legend that the dispossessed classical deities forever travel the roads of Europe as a troupe of strolling players. Priestley has them regain their divine powers for a few hours on Midsummer Night, once every hundred years.
The players, stranded penniless at an inn, are hired to entertain the guests of the wealthy but mean Lavatte (bass), at a party celebrating the engagement of his daughter Madeleine (lyric soprano) to an elderly nobleman. She, however, falls in love at first sight with the young poet Hector de Florac (lyric tenor) who is also staying there. In Act 2, set outside Lavatte’s house, the gods (Jupiter, baritone; Diana, dramatic soprano; Venus, mime; Bacchus, tenor; Mars, bass-baritone; and Mercury, dancer) resume their powers and one by one lead the guests a corybantic dance. In a mock exorcism staged by the Curé (tenor) in Act 3, Lavatte is reduced to giving away gold and granting the young lovers’ betrothal....