Opera Scotland

Martha Martha, oder Der Markt zur Richmond; Martha, or Richmond Market

Music
Friedrich von Flotow (born Teutendorf, 27 April 1812; died Darmstadt, 24 January 1883)

Text
W Friedrich (Friedrich Wilhelm Riese).

Source
Ballet-pantomime Lady Henriette, ou La servante de Greenwich (1798) by Vernoy de St Georges.

Premieres
First performance: Vienna (Kärntnertortheater), 25 November 1847.
First UK performance: London (Drury Lane), 4 June 1849.
First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 26 October 1859.
Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

Background
Martha, oder Der Markt zur Richmond (Martha, or Richmond Market) was a hugely popular work in the later nineteenth century and well into the twentieth. It is full of charming and memorable melody, of no great seriousness. It contains a famous tenor aria, usually known in its Italian version as “M’appari”, and the composer also used the traditional Irish song “The Last Rose of Summer” as a soprano piece. It was a favourite role of Adelina Patti and remained in the repertoire at Sadler’s Wells (and on tour) to the fifties. The last production in Scotland was in 1981 at Haddo House, featuring an early performance by Bonaventura Bottone. Scottish Opera have never presented a fully staged production, but it was one of the three operas toured with piano accompaniment by the Opera For All group in 1969-70.

Main Characters
Lady Harriet Durham (soprano)
Nancy, her maid (mezzo-soprano)
Sir Tristram Mickleford, Harriet’s cousin (bass)
Plunkett, a wealthy farmer (baritone)
Lionel, Plunkett’s foster-brother (tenor)
The Sheriff of Richmond (bass)

Plot Summary
The location is early 18th century England, particularly round Windsor and Richmond, Surrey. Lady Harriet, a maid of honour to Queen Anne, is bored by life at court, and joins with her maid Nancy in an escapade. They disguise themselves as country wenches called Martha and Julia. They then go to the feeing market at Richmond Fair. Two young farmers, Lionel and Plunkett, give them employment as servants and duly fall in love with the two girls. Not enjoying the work, and frightened by the implications of this situation, Harriet and Nancy escape back to their real world, with the help of Harriet’s old friend Sir Tristram. When they go hunting in normal aristocratic outfits, they are seen and recognised by the men, but refuse to acknowledge them. Harriet eventually realises that she now loves Lionel. His own aristocratic ancestry is now revealed (his father having been banished) and the Queen restores his title. But Lionel has been driven mad and extreme measures are required. Nancy and Plunkett, now reconciled, decide on another ruse, and have a replica of Richmond Fair constructed in Harriet’s parkland, so the local aristocracy have an excuse to dress as shepherdesses, etc. Plunkett then brings Lionel to see this spectacle and he finds his girl dressed as he remembered. With both sanity and a title he is able to marry Harriet, and Nancy and Plunkett are also united.

The Cast

Farmer
 
Farmer's Wife
 
First Footman
 
First Maid
 
Lady Harriet Durham
 Maid of Honour to Queen Anne
Lionel
 Plunkett's foster-brother
Nancy
 maid to Lady Harriet
Plunkett
 a wealthy young farmer
Second Footman
 
Second Maid
 
Servant
 
Sheriff of Richmond
 
Sir Tristram Mickleford
 Lady Harriet's cousin
Third Footman
 
Third Maid
 

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