Opera Scotland

Troilus and Cressida

Music

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

Text

Christopher Hassall (1912-63).

Source

Poem Troilus and Criseyde (c1385) by Geoffrey Chaucer (c1343-1400).

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Covent Garden), 3 December 1954.

First Performance (Revision): London (Covent Garden), 12 November 1976.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (King's Theatre), 8 March 1955.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Walton's only full-length opera has always had a rather mixed reception - much of the music is quite beautiful, like a romantic throwback to the world of Puccini or Strauss, but the pacing is not as gripping as it might be. The revision staged at Covent Garden in 1976 incorporated several cuts, as well as adjustments of pitch (tailored to the lower voice of Dame Janet Baker), but still failed to bring the work into the general repertoire. In spite of initially successful productions at La Scala and San Francisco, it has had few performances outside Britain since its early success.

The cast for the December 1954 premiere included: Frederick Dalberg (Calkas), Geraint Evans (Antenor), Richard Lewis (Troilus), Magda Laszlò (Cressida), Peter Pears (Pandarus), Monica Sinclair (Evadne), Forbes Robinson (Horaste), and Otakar Kraus (Diomede). The conductor was Sir Malcolm Sargent. Many of these appeared in the touring cast that visited Edinburgh and Glasgow.

 

Main Characters

Calkas, High Priest of Pallas Athene (bass)

Antenor, a Trojan captain (baritone)

Troilus, Prince of Troy (tenor)

Cressida, daughter of Calkas (soprano)

Pandarus, brother of Calkas (tenor)

Evadne, companion to Cressida (mezzo-soprano)

Horaste, a friend of Pandarus (bass)

Diomede, Prince of Calydon and Argos (baritone)

 

Plot Summary

The Trojan War has lasted for ten years, with the city of Troy under constant siege. Troilus loves Cressida, daughter of Calkas, whose goddess, Athene, is virulently anti-Trojan. Calkas was instrumental in aiding Helen's elopement with Paris, thus bringing about the war. Calkas himself defected to Troy at that time, and is therefore distrusted both by Greeks and Trojans. With the end of the war now imminentl, he tries to persuade the Trojans to surrender, then deserts again to the Greeks. Pandarus is appalled at his brother's treachery. Antenor, a friend of Troilus, is captured by the Greeks, and the Prince vows to rescue him, by exchanging prisoners if necessary.

Cressida visits the house of Pandarus for a supper party, and he contrives to introduce Troilus to her. Their mutual attraction is instant, and Pandarus leaves them alone together. The next morning Diomede arrives to finalise an agreed exchange - Calkas, now in the Greek camp, wants his daughter, and Antenor will be exchanged for her. Cressida is required to leave Troy.

In the Greek camp, Cressida is eventually persuaded by her father and Evadne that Troilus no longer loves her, since she has received no message from him - these have all been intercepted and destroyed on the orders of Calkas. She agrees to marry Diomede to make their safety certain. When Troilus arrives, he repudiates Cressida. While fighting with Diomede, he is murdered by Calkas. The priest is sent by Diomede back to Troy in chains, while Cressida kills herself.

The Cast

Antenor
 Captain of Trojan Spears
Calkas
 High Priest of Pallas Athene
Cressida
 daughter of Calkas, a widow
Diomede
 Prince of Calydon and Argos
Evadne
 companion to Cressida
First Lady
 in attendance on Cressida
First Soldier
 
Horaste
 a friend of Pandarus
Pandarus
 brother of Calkas
Priest
 
Second Lady
 in attendance on Cressida
Second Soldier
 
Troilus
 Prince of Troy
Voice of the Oracle
 

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