The University of California, Los Angeles
The Department of Music and the
Committee on Fine Arts Productions present
The University Opera Workshop and Symphony Orchestra in
An Opera in three acts
Richard Rodney Bennett
Libretto by Beverley Cross
West Coast Premiere
Friday June 5, and
Sunday June 7, 1970
The action occurs during a winter night some two hundred years ago in the hall of a decaying old manor house in England’s West Country. Boconnion, a young deserter still wearing the rags of a uniform, Tovey, a crippled tramp, and Rosalind conspire to murder her rich lover Braxton, the owner of the house. Having committed the murder, they hope to make their way to America to start a new life with his wealth and jewels.
Before the trio is able to get away from the scene of the crime, the sound of a horn announces the arrival of a strange group of actors. They are granted shelter in return for a play and suggest their newest acquisition, a comedy called “The Mines of Sulphur,” quoting Iago’s lines:
“Dangerous conceits are in their natures poisons
Which at first are scarce found to distates,
But with a little act upon the blood
Burn like the mines of sulphur.”
The play is on: the husband finds his wife in bed with his valet. He approaches them with a long knife in order to kill them. But he cannot do it, and throws the knife into the bed. The wife gives the weapon to her lover, urging him to murder the husband. Rosalind and Tovey are horror-stricken, and stop the play at the moment the lover turns for the fatal stab. Boconnion would like to see the end, but his companions insist that the story is too real and too close to the truth.
The actors now become aware of the true identity of their audience and detect the murder, but Boconnion draws a bayonet, takes them prisoner and has them locked into an escape-proof cellar. Straw is to be brought into the house and lighted so that a great conflagration will destroy every evidence. Special treatment is reserved for Jenny, who had played the role of the wife. Boconnion wishes to continue the play and, as “husband,” commit now in reality the crime that did not happen because of the interruption. Jenny does not plead for her life, but asks to tell an “amusing” story before he strikes her. Long ago, she relates, there came a group of actors to this very house to play; the gaiety of the occasion turned to terror when it was discovered that they had brought the plague with them.
From the distance the sound of a horn is heard, and everybody recognizes that the locked-up company of actors has mysteriously escaped. Boconnion is not frightened, however, and steps towards Jenny with his raised bayonet. She opens her cloak, and there on her breast is an ugly black spot - the sign of the plague. Pulling her garments together, she walks slowly away into the night. Feeling doomed, Rosalind and Tovey pray for mercy, and just before the final curtain even Bocconion utters a faint “Lord, have mercy.”
Dr. Walter Teutsch
About the Composer
Not since the heyday of the English madrigalists four centuries ago has England seethed with so much native musical talent, and Richard Rodney Bennett leads the list of younger composers whose work is now beginning to gain world-wide recognition.
Born in Kent in 1936, Bennett studied with Lennox Berkeley at the Royal Academy and then in Paris, with Pierre Boulez. American audiences, especially those on the West Coast, have had to content themselves with rumor or hearsay on Bennett’s music; or, to go to the movies and hear his scores to the films Billy Liar, The Nanny or Far from the Madding Crowd. However, like his predecessor Benjamin Britten (to whome tonight’s opera is dedicated), Bennett prefers opera to any other musical form. “Opera is a way of life,” says the composer, who is at the present time at work on his fourth stage piece.
Tonight the UCLA Opera Workshop is pleased to introduce The Mines of Sulphur to West Coast audiences.
The Mines of Sulphur
Scenic and LIghting Design
Braxton, a landowner
Rosalind, a gypsy
Boconnion, a deserter
David Bender *
Tovey, a crippled tramp
Sherrin, leader of a theatrical troupe (in the play: the Count)
Jenny, an actress (in the play: Haidee)
Leda, an actress (in the play: Mrs. Traxel)
Adelheid Krauss (June 5)
Natalie Norris (June 7)
Fenney, an actor (in the play: Hugo)
Tooley, an actor (in the play: a flunkey)
Cary Archer Smith *
Trim, a mute (in the play: a flunkey)
Scene: The hall of a manor house in the West Country, the home of Braxton.
Time: A winter night, some two hundred years ago.
* Guest Artists
James Carpenter, Concertmaster
James Moore, Principal
Ray Ann Goldberg
Renita Koven, Principal
Linda Sigel, Principal
Evelyn Bryan (also piccolo)
Elaine Bryan (also piccolo)
Paul Varady (also English Horn)
Piano, Harpsichord, Celeste
James Carpenter, Orchestra Manager
Italian Diction and Repertory
Stage Movement and Dance
Elizabeth Ince Greenhut
Theodore Presser Company
We wish to thank the Department of
Theater Arts for the use of the furniture.