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Libretto by the composer and Marjorie Kennedy Fraser (E)

Scoring

2S,2M,2A,T,Bar,2B,child mime
fl.corA.cl-hn-timp-harp-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
9/27/1924
Birmingham
Company: Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Roles

THE CAILLEACH, an old Crone Contralto
THE SEAL-WOMAN Mezzo Soprano
THE SEAL-SISTER Soprano
THE ISLESMAN Tenor
FIRST FISHER Baritone
SECOND FISHER Bass
THE WATER-KELPIE Bass
MORAG, child of the Seal-Woman Silent role
THREE SWAN MAIDENS Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Contralto
Time and Place

An uninhabited islet in the Western Isles of the Scottish Hebrides

Synopsis



An old crone or 'Cailleach' sings of local legends of seals that turn into mortal women. The voices of a Seal-Woman and her Seal-Sister are heard. Fishermen approach the island. The Isleman recalls a Seal-Woman he has seen before, and when she and her sister appear he keeps hold of their sea-robes – without which they cannot reassume their marine form – and will only return those of the sister. He declares his love for the Seal-Woman, and she agrees to go with him. Seven years later, the Seal-Woman has borne his child, Morag. The Cailleach visits them, and while she sleeps three prophetic swans arrive and predict that the Seal-Woman will be free only when her daughter discovers the sea-robe hidden in a peat stack. Morag finds it and brings it to her mother. As the Isleman returns he watches as his wife flings herself from the cliff into the sea. He and his daughter listen to the Seal-Woman singing as she swims away.

Moods

Poetic, Romantic, Tragic

Subjects

Environment, Literary, Magic/Mystery, Mythology, Relationships

Recommended Recording
cd_cover



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