Opera Scotland

John Socman

Music

George Lloyd (born St Ives, Cornwall, 28 June 1913; died London, 3 July 1998).

Text

William Lloyd.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Bristol (Hippodrome), 15 May 1951.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (King's Theatre), 11 April 1952.

 

Background

John Socman was Lloyd's third and final opera, commissioned by the Arts Council for the Festival of Britain. His first two, composed before the war, had been greeted with great enthusiasm as signalling the arrival of a wonderful new talent. Reaction was now a little different. His war had been appalling, torpedoed on escort duty on the North Atlantic convoys and badly shell-shocked. His composition was only sporadic thereafter, and John Socman was seen as well-crafted but rather old-fashioned.

The run of performances by Carl Rosa were generally well sung. But it suffered from the lack of stage rehearsal time inevitable given the touring environment and shortage of resources within which the company was obliged to work, One novelty for them was the importation of an experienced stage director, in Dennis Arundell. The handful of performances were spaced out through the long tour in a way that must have prevented the singers and orchestral players from gathering the momentum usual when a group of performances is clustered together. 

 

Main Characters

John Socman, a magistrate (baritone)

Sybil, a village girl (soprano)

Richard, a soldier, her lover (tenot)

Gleemaiden, a Frenchwoman (mezzo-soprano)

Brother Tom, a friar (tenor)

 

Plot Summary

Like The Serf, the opera has a medieval setting, the aftermath of the war between England and France that culminated in the battle of Agincourt (1415). A brief synopsis from the programme was reprinted in the July 1951 issue of Opera:

John Socman, wishing to marry Sybil and finding that Richard, her lover, has returned home from Agincourt, arrests her father for heresy, as being a Lollard, or follower of William of Wycliffe. Meanwhile a French Gleemaiden, her memory partially lost, wanders the countryside. At a triumphal procession of soldiers Richard asks for aid as Sybil has been taken from him by John Socman. Hearing this name the Gleemaiden's memory clears.

Richard finds that Sybil, to save her father from being burnt, has that morning married John Socman. They fight, but are interrupted by the Gleemaiden whom John Socman recognizes as his wife whom he had attempted to have murdered at Bordeaux. Amazed and penitent he begs forgiveness which the Gleemaiden, still loving him, grants. Nothing now stands in the way of Sybil and Richard, and the scene ends with rejoicing.

The Cast

Brother Tom
 a low friar
Farmer
 
First Farmer's Son
 
Gleemaiden
 a wandering Frenchwoman
Gower
 John Socman's servant
Innkeeper
 
John Socman
 a Magistrate
Mawle
 Sheriff's Officer
Richard
 a young archer, engaged to Sybil
Second Farmer's Son
 
Sir Hugh Mannay
 a Knight returning from Agincourt
Sybil
 a village girl, Warner's daughter
Timothy
 a young countryman
Tumbler
 
Warner
 a scholar and Lollard

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