Opera Scotland

Ivanhoe

Music

Sir Arthur Sullivan (London, 13 May 1842; died London, 22 November 1900)

Text

Julian Sturgis (1848-1904)

Source

Novel (1819) by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832)

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Royal English Opera House), 31 January 1891.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Royalty Theatre), 23 April 1895.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Throughout his career, Sir Arthur Sullivan had longed to compose a serious opera, but the necessary circumstances had never quite coincided. However, when Richard D'Oyly Carte decided to build a new opera house in London (now the Palace Theatre at Cambridge Circus), it seemed entirely appropriate that Sullivan should create the opening work. Ivanhoe has usually been described as a failure, and has not had a professional staging since the nineteenth century. But the original London run was of 155 consecutive performances, employing three casts on different nights, which is an achievement unequalled by any opera since, so it was in fact an unparalleled success. The London run was followed by a national tour in the repertoire of the Carl Rosa company. It must still be said that the libretto is far from ideal. While the intention was clearly to give as true a representation of the novel as possible, the result is badly structured, and contains less relevant detail which might have been cut. But there is still plenty of excellent music in it. It is also a fact that, in its day, Ivanhoe was probably the most popular of Scott's novels, and therefore one of the most widely read of all nineteenth century works of fiction. Sullivan's efforts to stage it can therefore be placed in a similar context as, for instance, the nationally-themed operas of Smetana and Dvoƙák, or of much of the Russian school.

 

Main Characters

Richard, King of England (baritone)

Prince John, his brother (baritone)

Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert, a Templar knight (bass-baritone)

Maurice de Bracy, another knight (tenor)

Cedric the Saxon (bass)

Wilfred of Ivanhoe, his son (tenor)

Friar Tuck (bass-baritone)

Isaac, the Jew of York (baritone)

Lady Rowena, ward of Cedric (soprano)

Rebecca, daughter of Isaac (soprano)

 

Plot Summary

Wilfred of Ivanhoe is expelled from his family by his father, Cedric, because he loves Rowena, whom Cedric intends should marry Athelstane, the leading Saxon contender for the throne. Ivanhoe joins King Richard's forces on the Third Crusade. Cedric immediately regrets his action. He gives shelter to Isaac and to a party of knights, including de Bracy and Bois-Guilbert. They are attracted to Rowena and decide to abduct her at a forthcoming tournament. Prince John has seized power and presides at the tournament. Richard has returned in disguise, with Ivanhoe among his followers and the latter defeats Sir Brian in the tourney and is able to reveal his true identity.

Richard, still disguised, joins the outlaws in the forest. Word comes that Ivanhoe has been wounded and abducted along with Cedric, Rowena and Rebecca - the women have been targeted by Sir Maurice and Sir Brian, respectively. Richard and the outlaws set off to rescue them. Rebecca nurses Ivanhoe back to health and falls in love with him. Richard and the outlaws win the siege, and return to the forest with Cedric, Rowena and Ivanhoe. However, Sir Brian escapes with Rebecca.  At the Templars' stronghold she is accused of witchcraft and demands trial by combat. When Ivanhoe appears to challenge Sir Brian, the Templar drops dead on the spot. Richard, safely in control of his kingdom, expels the Templars, and Ivanhoe and Rowena are finally united. Rebecca and Isaac also leave the country.

The Cast

Cedric the Saxon
 Thane of Rotherwood
Friar Tuck
 
Isaac
 the Jew of York
Lady Rowena
 Ward of Cedric
Locksley
 
Lucas de Beaumanoir
 Grand Master of the Templars
Maurice de Bracy
 a Templar knight
Prince John
 brother to the King
Rebecca
 daughter of Isaac of York
Richard Coeur-de-Lion
 King of England, disguised as the Black Knight
Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert
 Commander of the Order of Knights Templar
Squire
 
Ulrica
 
Wilfred, Knight of Ivanhoe
 son of Cedric, disguised as a Palmer

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