Opera Scotland

Golden Web The Golden Web

Music

Arthur Goring Thomas (born Ratton Park, 20 November 1850; died London, 20 March 1892).

Text

Frederick Corder & B C Stephenson.

Source

Novel The Chaplain of the Fleet (1881) by Sir Walter Besant (1836-1901).

 

Premières

First Performance: Liverpool (Royal Court Theatre), 15 February 1893.

First Performance of revision: London (Lyric Theatre), 1 April 1893.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 27 April 1893.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.

 

Background

At the point when the composer killed himself, he had nearly finished the opera, and needed only to orchestrate a few numbers and complete some recitative. This final task was completed by a promising student, S P Waddington. Even before the Liverpool opening, there was recognition that Corder's libretto was inadequate, and the dialogue was entirely rewritten by B C Stephenson. Thomas's music for The Golden Web was greeted with enthusiasm, but the libretto was still pilloried. The plot, basically a Sheridanesque comedy of 18th century London, seems poorly structured, complex and confusing.

After the Liverpool performances the work had a short London run, opening on 11 March at the Lyric, with several cast changes. After three weeks, the theatre closed for Easter while some further cast changes were introduced and substantial modifications were made to the piece. The tenor Durward Lely, arriving at Liverpool after an American tour, found himself summoned by his old Savoy colleague Richard Temple to help out. Temple had taken over the role of Lord Silvertop in the London run, also at short notice. Lely learned the completely unfamiliar part of Geoffrey during that week. The revised opera reopened on 1 April and ran for a further fortnight before going on tour. Mesdames Esty and Amadi were the only principals to appear in all performances. Messrs Cook, Pringle and Jacquinot had all appeared at Liverpool, but not in London, and returned to their roles on tour.

 

Main Characters

Lord Silvertop, an elderly nobleman (bass)

Smug, his valet

Dr  Manacle, a parson (baritone)

Spindle, his servant

Bullion, a rich city merchant (tenor)

Amabel Bullion, niece to Manacle and Bullion (soprano)

Pamela Patch, Amabel's aunt (mezzo-soprano)

Geoffrey Norreys, a young spendthrift (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

The plot is extremely convoluted, located in London, with the first and third acts set in Fleet Lane, a market area adjacent to the debtors' prison, at the centre of which is an inn, the Golden Web. The second takes place in the fashionable Ranelagh Gardens.

Amabel is pursued by both Silvertop (for her asset value) and Geoffrey Norreys (who loves her, but also needs money desperately). She does love Geoffrey, but they have quarreled and he believes she loves another. He is due to inherit £5000 on marriage, so is persuaded by Silvertop and Manacle to marry an anonymous lady. Thanks to Manacle's further adjustments, this is Amabel in disguise. The wedding duly takes place, with Geoffrey in ignorance as to his wife's identity. Silvertop, having been rejected by Amabel, resolves to have her abducted. This scheme is prevented by Geoffrey. Smug, who has been disguised as a gentleman, pays court to Pamela, without success, and has her carried off to the Fleet. When Silvertop arrives for his marriage to, as he thinks, his abducted Amabel, Manacle ensures he is actually married to the more appropriate Pamela. Meanwhile Geoffrey is reconciled to Amabel and delighted to find he is already married to her.

The Cast

Amabel Bullion
 niece to Manacle and Bullion
Bullion
 a rich city merchant
Dr Manacle
 a parson
Geoffrey Norreys
 a young spendthrift
Lord Silvertop
 an elderly nobleman
Mistress Pamela Patch
 Amabel's aunt
Mrs Pounceby
 a lady of fashion
Mrs Scatterwell
 a lady of fashion
Smug
 Silvertop's valet
Spindle
 Manacle's servant

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