- Hugo Cole
Opera in two acts with a prologue by Alan Bush to a libretto by Nancy Bush; Leipzig, Staatstheater, 6 September 1953.
The opera is set in 1381. The Kentish peasants, led by Wat Tyler (baritone), refuse to pay the poll tax and chase Bampton (bass-baritone), the royal tax commissioner, out of Maidstone. The peasant army frees the preacher, John Ball (bass), from prison and marches to London to beg the king to abolish serfdom.
In Act 2 King Richard II (tenor) and his counsellors conspire to deceive the peasants. The king meets Wat Tyler at Smithfield and agrees to put an end to serfdom. Bampton picks a quarrel with Tyler, and Walworth (bass-baritone), mayor of London, stabs Tyler in the back. A deputation of peasants waits on the king as he comes to Westminster Abbey for a thanksgiving service; he tears up the charter and declares that serfdom shall continue for ever. The opera ends with a chorus of hope for future freedom....