Opera Scotland

Greek Slave A Greek Slave

Music

Sidney Jones (born London, 17 June 1861; died Kew, 29 January 1946 )

Additional songs by Lionel Monckton.

Text

Harry Greenbank and Adrian Ross (lyrics); Owen Hall (book)

 

Premieres

First Performance: London (Daly's Theatre), 8 June 1898.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (Royalty Theatre), 19 September 1898.

 

Background

Sidney Jones's previous smash-hit, The Geisha, had been running continuously at Daly's for over two years, and had enjoyed enormous popularity elsewhere. Any follow-up was inevitably going to find this a challenge, and while A Greek Slave was generally admired, and also toured successfully, it has never enjoyed that level of reputation.

The plot, while having many original features, owed much to the classical Roman comedies of Plautus. It has that in common with more recent entertainments, including the early Sondheim musical A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, not to mention the Frankie Howerd TV comedy series Up Pompeii!, and, indeed, the long sequence of Carry On films. The whole idea of a statue coming to life also brings to mind the Pygmalion storyline, with the added adjustment that the statue this time is male.

 

Main Characters

Marcus Pomponius, a Roman Prefect (bass-baritone)

Antonia, a Princess of the Imperial family (soprano)

Iris, a Greek slave, her maid (soprano)

Heliodorus, a Persian soothsayer (baritone)

Maia, his daughter (soprano)

Diomed, a Greek slave in his household (baritone)

Archias, a Greek slave in his household, also a sculptor (tenor)

Melanopis, Heliodorus' housekeeper (contralto)

 

Plot Summary

In first century Rome, Princess Antonia decides to consult the Persian soothsayer Heliodorus about her love life and future prospects He is a bit of a fraud, but is helped in his scams by his charming daughter Maia. Pomponius has been courting the Princess, and prevails upon the pair to help him by playing a trick on her. Heliodorus shows her a sculpture in his possession, a wonderful life-size statue of Eros. She loves it at once, and longs for it to come to life. This turns out to be only a minor challenge for the Persian's supernatural powers, since the statue is the work of a slave in the Heliodorus household, one Archias, and he had used as his model another slave, Diomed. The substitution is effected in secret, and the statue duly comes to life, and can even sing. Antonia is entranced.

The second act transfers all the principal characters to the fashionable seaside resort of Baiae, where Antonia has a villa. She has duly acquired the Eros, and it has been given pride of place as she waits for it to come to life again. Further confusions inevitably arise before the proper pairings are brought about, with Diomed marrying Iris and Antonia marrying Pomponius.

The Cast

Archias
 a Greek Slave in the household of Heliodorus, also a Sculptor
Circe
 a slave
Cornelia
 a patrician lady
Curius
 a patrician
Diomed
 a Greek Slave in the household of Heliodorus
Flavia
 a patrician lady
Heliodorus
 a Persian Soothsayer
Iris
 a Greek Slave, Antonia's maidservant
Lollius
 a patrician
Lucinia
 a patrician lady
Maia
 Daughter of Heliodorus
Manlius
 a patrician
Marcus Pomponius
 a Roman Prefect
Melanopis
 a slave, housekeeper to Heliodorus
Nepia
 a slave
Nysa
 
Princess Antonia
 of the Imperial family
Silius
 a patrician
Tullia
 a patrician lady

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