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Original libretto by Charles Francis Keary, revised libretto by Douglas Craig and Andrew Page (E,G)

Scoring

Major roles: 2S,A,Bar,2B; minor roles: 3S,4A,T,B; chorus
3(III=picc).2.corA.2.bcl.3.dbn-4.2.3.1-timp.perc:tgl/glsp/tamb/cyms/
BD/SD/tam-t-2harp-banjos-cowhorn(off-stage)-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
30/03/1904
Stadttheater, Elberfeld
Conductor: Fritz Cassirer
Company: Staattheater Elberfeld

Roles

UNCLE JOE Bass
DON JOSE MARTINEZ Bass
SIMON PEREZ Tenor
KOANGA Baritone
RANGWAN Bass
PALMYRA Soprano
CLOTILDA Alto
Planters daughters 4 Sopranos/4 Altos
Slaves, dancers, servants Chorus
Time and Place

A plantation on the Mississippi in Louisiana, second half of the 18th century

Synopsis



In the Prologue a group of planters’ daughters ask the old slave Uncle Joe to tell them the story of Koanga and Palmyra. The scene changes to former times. Palmyra, maid to Clotilda, wife of the plantation owner Martinez, watches his overseer Perez wake the slaves for work. He declares his love for her, but she will have none of him. Martinez enters and Perez tells him of the arrival of a fine new slave, who is then brought in. This is Koanga, an African prince who calls on his gods to avenge his betrayal. Perez acknowledges that Koanga will die rather than work as a slave, but Martinez suggests that Palmyra’s beauty will persuade him. It does so, and Palmyra is given to Koanga. Perez is furious, and Clotilda – aware that Palmyra is her half-sister – horrified. The second act opens in holiday mood for the wedding of Koanga and Palmyra. Clotilda consults with Perez as to how the wedding can be stopped. Perez tells Palmyra the secret of her birth, but she will not change her mind. As the ceremony is about to take place, Perez abducts Palmyra. Furious, Koanga fights with Martinez and knocks him down. Escaping to the swamp, he uses magic to bring contagion to the plantation, but a vision of Palmyra’s suffering forces him to return. As he arrives Perez is endeavouring to embrace her. Koanga kills him, but is himself captured and put to death. Palmyra mourns him then stabs herself. The Epilogue shows the girls responding to Old Joe’s tale. They watch the sunrise.

Moods

Romantic, Tragic

Subjects

Ethics, History, Magic/Mystery, Politics, Relationships, Society

Recommended Recording

Eugene Holmes / Claudia Lindsey / Raimund Herincx / Keith Erwin / Jean Allister / Simon Estes / London Symphony Orchestra / John Alldis Choir / Sir Charles Groves
EMI Classics 585 142 2 (2003 reissue)

London Select Choir / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Thomas Beecham (excerpts)
Naxos Historical 8.110904

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Koanga


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