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date: 14 October 2019


  • Andrew Clements


Opera in two acts by Harrison Birtwistle to a libretto by David Harsent after the anonymous Middle English poem Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; London, Covent Garden, 30 May 1991.

King Arthur (tenor) and his court are celebrating the Christmas feast; Morgan le Fay (soprano) and Lady de Hautdesert (mezzo-soprano) are plotting against the court. A Fool (baritone) presents a sequence of riddles, each of which is followed by a knocking at the door. The Green Knight (bass) enters and issues a challenge: he will stand as someone strikes him with an axe, but whoever does so must in a year and a day travel to the Green Chapel to withstand a similar blow. Gawain (baritone), Arthur’s nephew, takes up the challenge and decapitates him; the Green Knight departs, carrying his head. In a masque, ‘The Turning of the Seasons’, underpinned by a sequence of Marian motets sung by Bishop Baldwin (countertenor) and a chorus, Gawain is prepared for his journey....

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