Opera Scotland

Savitri

Music

Gustav Holst (born Cheltenham, 21 September 1874; died London, 25 May 1934)

Text

The composer

Source

Episode from Indian epic poem The Mahabharata (c400BC-200AD)

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Wellington Hall), 5 December 1916.

First performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 5 November 1923.

Scottish Opera premiere: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 15 November 1978.

 

Background

Holst was educated in Cheltenham and at the Royal College of Music, spending most of his working life as a schoolteacher in London (at St Paul's Girls' School). He also taught evening classes, and only had a limited amount of time available for composition. While his major work, indeed his masterpiece, is his orchestral suite The Planets, he did compose several operas, though they are all short. Savitri, the first of these, is a very spare piece composed for three singers and a chamber orchestra.

 

Characters

Savitri (soprano)

Satyavan, her husband (tenor)

Death (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

Savitri is told by Death that her husband is about to die. When he returns from his day's work in the forest he collapses. Death now offers Savitri a wish, and she asks for 'Life'. Death agrees, but Savitri then points out that life for her is indivisible from her husband's life. Death has been tricked and admits defeat. Satyavan revives.

The Cast

Death
 
Satyavan
 a woodsman
Savitri
 wife of Satyavan

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