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Libretto based on the 'Book of Thel' by William Blake (E,R)

Scoring

S,boyS(or girlS),CT(or S),A,mime; mixed chamber chorus 1(=picc).1.1.1-1.1.1.0-timp.perc(2):jingle bells/tgl/susp.cym/gong/ BD/tam-t/xyl/vib/t.bells/glsp-cel(=hpd).harp-strings(1.1.1.1.1) This work is represented by Boosey & Hawkes in the UK, British Commonwealth (excluding Canada) and the Republic of Ireland

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
09/06/1989
Almeida Theatre, London
Annabel Arden, dir/Willow Winston, designer/Jane Davidson, sop/Lore Lixemberg, alto
Conductor: Jeremy Arden
Company: Théâtre de Complicité

Roles

THEL Soprano
CLOD OF CLAY Contralto
LILY OF THE VALLEY Boy or girl soprano
CLOUD Countertenor (or soprano)
WORM Mime
GHOSTS Mixed chamber choir (SATB)
Time and Place

The Vales of Har, the Places of the Dead

Synopsis

The daughters of Mne Seraphim are all shepherdesses in the Vales of Har, apart from the youngest, Thel (so-called from the Greek word meaning ‘desire’ or ‘will’). She spends her time wandering on her own, trying to find the answer to the question that torments her: why does the springtime of life inevitably fade so that all things must end? She meets the Lily of the Valley who tries to comfort her. When Thel remains uncomforted, the Lily sends her on to ask the Cloud. The Cloud explains that he is part of a natural process and, although he sometimes disappears, he is never gone forever. Thel replies that she is not like the Cloud and when she disappears she will not return. So the Cloud suggests asking the same question of the Worm. The Worm is still a child and cannot answer. Instead it is the Worm’s mother, the Clod of Clay, who answers. The Clod explains that we do not live for ourselves, but for others. She invites Thel to enter into her underground realm and see the places of the dead where Thel herself will one day reside. Once there, however, Thel is assailed by mysterious voices asking a whole series of yet more terrible questions of existence. Uttering a shriek, she flees back to her home in the Vales of Har.

Moods

Dramatic, Poetic

Subjects

Literary, Mythology




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