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Photo: Bill Cooper
Welsh National Opera 1996, David Pountney, dir

Maxwell Davies, Peter

The Doctor of Myddfai (1995)

Duration: 94 minutes
Opera in two acts

Libretto by David Pountney (E)

Major Roles: S,hS,dramM,M,Bar,B; 13 minor roles; 3 actors; chorus 2(II=picc,afl).2(II=corA).2(II=bcl).2(II=dbn)- rainstick/BD/foot BD/tamb/wdbl/lg & sm susp.cym/choke cym/tam-t/ glsp/maracas/guero/cyms/bell-tree/vib/flexatone/chinese cym/ lions roar/lg & sm SD/TD/crot/small tpl.bl/marimba-harp-chamber organ-strings
Abbreviations (PDF)

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.

World Premiere
New Theatre, Cardiff
Paul Whelan/Lisa Tyrrell/Elizabeth Vaughan/Ann Howard/Nan Christie/Gwynne Howell
Conductor: Richard Armstrong CBE
Company: Welsh National Opera David Pountney, prod/Huntley/Muir, des


THE DOCTORHigh Baritone
THE CHILD, a girl about 12 years oldSoprano
1ST OFFICIALMezzo-Soprano
3RD OFFICIAL, Security OfficerHigh Soprano
10 MINISTERS, representing 10 zones2 Sopranos/3 Mezzo-Sopranos/2 Tenors/3 Basses
2 JanitorsTenor/Baritone
3 GirlsSoprano/Mezzo-Soprano/Contralto
5 Groups of Officials Chorus of 7 Sopranos/6 Mezzo-Sopranos/5 Tenors/6 Bass-Baritones
3 Guards (2 with sniffer dogs)Silent roles
Chorus of peopleSATB

Time and Place
Europe in the near future

The Legend
Once upon a time a shepherd was with his flock beside a lake. A beautiful girl appeared in the lake, and he fell in love with her. After passing the test of distinguishing her from her two sisters, he was allowed to marry her, on the condition that if he struck her three times, she would return to the lake, taking with her all the wealth she had brought him. During their life together, he did strike her three times, and she returned to the lake, but she left him and his descendants the gift of her healing powers. They became the Doctors of Myddfai.

The Opera
The Doctor is retelling the legend to his child. She knows the story well, but the Doctor is distracted, constantly thinking of his patients. A strange new disease has broken out. Whenever anyone receives a blow in the rain, it develops into an horrific and incurable bruise, spreading inexorably over the whole body. The sick are driven to gather beside a lake, where they sing in desperation. The Doctor can get no information from official sources about this disease; he resolves to go and confront the government. Faced with an unhelpful and hostile bureaucracy, the Doctor discovers that he has inherited certain magical powers. He gains access to the Ruler himself. The Ruler listens to the Doctor's story, but finally dismisses him. He cannot allow such private and remote stories to affect his grand strategy. But the Doctor's story has disturbed him. He seeks consolation with a woman 'from the usual agency'. But the woman turns out to be the Doctor, who now confronts the Ruler on a truly personal level. At the climax of their scene, the Doctor strikes him. It is raining. The Ruler is now infected. The State Council meets to debate the crisis caused by the Ruler's mysterious absence. The meeting, tense and acrimonious, is twice disturbed by inexplicable interruptions. At the third, the Doctor appears, and begins to explain his origins, but he is interrupted by the Ruler, who demands to be taken to the lake to be cured. At the lake, the Doctor refuses to cure the Ruler, saying that he is concerned with nations now, not with individuals. The sick, hearing of the Doctor's presence, trample him to death in their desperation for a cure. The Child arrives, and orders the Ruler to walk into the lake. As the new Doctor of Myddfai, she takes control.
© David Pountney

Dramatic, Poetic

Contemporary, Environment, Ethics, Magic/Mystery, Mythology, Politics, Society

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