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Tale of Two Cities

Photo: Roger Wood

New Opera Company, Sadler's Wells

Benjamin, Arthur

A Tale of Two Cities (1949-50)

Duration: 135 minutes

Romantic Melodrama in six scenes


English   Deutsch  

Libretto by Cedric Cliffe after the novel by Charles Dickens (E)


Scoring

Major roles: dramS,lyrS,2T,Bar minor roles: S,lyrS,3A,4T,4Bar,4B,3speakers,child mime; chorus 3.2.2.2-4.0.3.1-timp.perc:glsp/tamb/SD/TD/BD/cyms/gong/chains/tgl/ coconut shells-harp-cel-pft-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)


Territory

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


World Premiere
17/04/1953
BBC, London
Conductor: Arthur Benjamin
Company: BBC Broadcast

World stage premiere
22/07/1957
Sadler's Wells, London
Anthony Besch, director
Conductor: Leon Lovett
Company: New Opera Company


Roles

MADAME DEFARGE Dramatic Soprano
LUCIE MANETTE Lyric Soprano
DOCTOR MANETTE Tenor
CHARLES DARNAY Tenor
SYDNEY CARTON Baritone
1ST WOMAN Soprano
2ND WOMAN Mezzo-Soprano
3RD WOMAN Contralto
MISS PROSS Contralto (character)
THE YOUNG COUNTESS Lyric Soprano
LORRY Baritone
DEFARGE Bass
JACQUES I Baritone
JACQUES II (a cripple) Bass
JACQUES III Tenor
JACQUES IV Tenor
THE MARQUIS DE SAINT EVREMONDE Baritone
GABELLE (his steward) Bass
THE SPY Tenor
HURDY-GURDY MAN Baritone
THE OLD MARQUIS Bass
APPLE SELLER Contralto
CORPORAL Spoken role
OLD COUNT Spoken role
OLD MARQUISE Spoken role
THE LITTLE SON OF JACQUES IV Silent role
CHORUS SATB

Time and Place

Paris and London, 1783/1789


Synopsis

In a wine shop in Paris the discontented poor complain of the inequities of their lot, encouraged by the owner Defarge and his wife. Revenge, they say, is coming. Sounds of an accident outside alert them to the fact that a child has been killed by a carriage – the unconcerned owner, the Marquis de Saint Evremonde, offers the bereaved father a purse, but it is refused. Lucie Manette arrives and is reunited with her father, Dr Manette, who had been held prisoner in the Bastille for fifteen years. Six years later, in a Soho garden, Lucie is preparing to celebrate her engagement on her 21st birthday to Charles Darnay, nephew of Saint Evremonde who has renounced his family's repressive associations. The lawyer Sydney Carton, who has already saved Darnay’s life when he was tried on suspicion of being a French spy, and is in love with Lucie, reacts badly to the news of the engagement and laments the waste of his life. The scene returns to the wine shop, where Madame Defarge and her associates are celebrating the fall of the Bastille. They force Gabelle – a former servant of the Saint Evremonde family – to write to Darnay in England to come to his assistance. At the Revolutionary Tribunal Darnay stands accused by Defarge and his wife, but the most damning evidence is contained in papers written by Manette whilst in prison. Darnay is condemned to death for his father’s crimes. Later, Carton visits him in prison, drugs him and substitutes himself for the condemned man. In the final scene in the Place de la République, Carton goes bravely to his death, comforting the last moments of a young condemned girl. Madame Defarge at last realises the substitution, and falls down senseless, cheated of her revenge.


Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Tragic


Subjects

Ethics, History, Literary, Politics, Relationships, Society




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