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Argento, Dominick

Miss Havisham's Fire (1979, rev.1996)

Duration: 113 minutes
Opera in two acts

Libretto by John Olon-Scrymgeour, after Dickens's `Great Expectations' (E)

Major role: colS; minor roles: 2S,2M,A,2T,Bar,BBar,2B,speaker; chorus 2(I=picc,II=afl).2(II=corA).2(I=ssax,II=bcl).2(II=dbn)- timp.perc(2):vib/t.bells/glsp/susp.cyms/tam-t/BD/whip/tgl/tamb/ steel plate/steel anvil/bell tree/tpl.bl/wind chimes-harp-pft(=cel)- harm or org-strings.
Abbreviations (PDF).

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

World Premiere
New York City Opera, New York, NY
H.Wesley Balk, director
Conductor: Julius Rudel
Company: New York City Opera

World premiere of version
St. Louis, Missouri
Conductor: Beatrice Jona Affron
Company: Saint Louis Opera


AURELIA HAVISHAM, an elderly recluseSoprano
Aurelia Havisham, as a young woman of 1810Soprano
ESTELLA DRUMMLE, adopted daughter of Miss HavishamTreble
Estella Drummle, as a woman of 1859-60Mezzo Soprano
PHILLIP PIRRIP, known as Pip, as a poor boy of 1846-8Treble
Phillip Pirrip, as a man of 1859-60Baritone
GRACE-HELEN BROOME, called Nanny, as a young woman of 1810Soprano
Grace-Helen Broome, as the former governess to Miss HavishamSoprano
BENTLEY DRUMMLE, man about townTenor
ORLICK, caretaker at Satis HouseBass
JAGGERS, Miss Havisham's solicitorBass
THE CORONER, officiating at the inquestBass Baritone
Sarah Pocket, relative of Miss HavishamContralto
Camilla Pocket, relative of Miss HavishamSoprano
Georgiana Pocket, relative of Miss HavishamMezzo Soprano
Raymond Pocket, relative of Miss HavishamTenor
1st Woman, guest at the Assembly BallSoprano
2nd Woman, guest at the Assembly BallSoprano
3rd Woman, guest at the Assembly BallMezzo Soprano
1st Man, guest at the Assembly Ball (Raymond Pocket)Tenor
2nd Man, guest at the Assembly BallBaritone
3rd Man, guest at the Assembly BallBass
1st MaidservantSoprano
2nd MaidservantMezzo Soprano
Pumblechook, Uncle to Pipspoken role
A Chambermaidsilent role

Time and Place
19th Century, the gardens and environs of the estate of Miss Aurelia Havisham; Satis House, Essex, England

Based after Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, the opera is subtitled “Being an investigation into the unusual and violent death of Aurelia Havisham on the 17 of April in the year 1860.”  Miss Havisham lives for 50 years in the seclusion of her home, and she dies when her wedding gown, which she has never removed since she was jilted by her fiancé, catches fire.  The work proceeds on two levels at once: Throughout the opera, an investigation about her death is held on one side of the stage while the explanatory action immediately follows.  A series of flashbacks fleshes out the coroner’s inquiry and past and present merge.  During the Prologue screams are heard and a figure, enveloped in flames, appears at the window of Satis House.  It is Miss Havisham.  Pip rushes in to try to save her.  The investigation of her death reveals the dark relationships Miss Havisham had with her adopted daughter Estella, and the orphan Pip.  The investigation also reveals that all of the relatives involved had some motive for her death.

Dramatic, Tragic

Relationships, Society, Literary

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