Opera Scotland

Bear The Bear

Music

William Walton (born Oldham, 29 March 1902; died Ischia, 8 March 1983).

Text

Paul Dehn (1912-1976).

Source

Comedy Medved (1888) by Anton Chekhov (1860-1904).

 

Premieres

First Performance: Aldeburgh (Jubilee Hall), 3 June 1967.

First Performance in Scotland: tbc.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Walton's second opera, The Bear, is a complete contrast with the earlier Troilus and Cressida - a simple comedy in one act, using a chamber orchestra, perhaps reminiscent of the Italian intermezzi from the eighteenth century, such as Pergolesi's La serva padrona. Adapted from a short entertainment by Chekhov, it was commissioned by the English Opera Group and introduced at the Aldeburgh Festival. It is an enjoyably frivolous piece, showing a brief courtship, and full of parodies of Walton's favourite operatic predecessors.

 

Characters

Yeliena Ivanova Popova, a wealthy young widow (mezzo-soprano)

Luka, her manservant (bass-baritone)

Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov, a neighbour (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

Madame Popova continues to mourn her late husband, in spite of Luka's view that it is time for her to move on. She may have been a faithful wife, but he was far from being a model husband. Smirnov arrives. He is a great bear of a man, whom Mme Popova considers a boor. She takes an instant dislike to him. He has come to demand settlement of an outstanding debt incurred by the late Popov. An argument develops between the two, and Popova orders Luka to throw the intruder out. A duel is threatened, but the lady would need to be shown how to use a pistol. They quickly realise that their relationship should be on a far more cordial footing.

The Cast

Cook
 
Grigory Stepanovitch Smirnov
 Popova's neighbour
Groom
 
Luka
 Madame Popova's manservant
Yeliena Ivanova Popova
 a wealthy widow

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