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Photo: Opera North / Donald Cooper
Opera North 1996, Helena Kaut-Howson, dir

Gerhard, Roberto

The Duenna (1945-49)

(La Dueña)
Duration: 130 minutes
Opera in three acts

Libretto by the composer and Christopher Hassall after Richard Brinsley Sheridan's comedy (E,G). Performing Edition (1991) by David Drew.

Major roles: S,2M,2T,2Bar,B; small roles: T,B,3speakers; chorus; dancers 2.picc.2.corA.2.bcl.2-4.2.2.euph.1-timp.perc(3):xyl/cast/rattle/ 3Chin.tom-t/Korean tpl.bl/tamb/SD/BD/cyms/2susp.cyms/tam-t- cel-harp-strings
Abbreviations (PDF)

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

World stage premiere
Teatro Lirico Nacional, Madrid
Felicity Palmer, David Rendall, Anthony Michaels-Moore, Richard van Allan, Dir: Jose-Carlos Plaza
Conductor: Antoni Ros Marba
Company: Madrid Opera


DON JEROME, a nobleman of SevilleBass
DON FERDINAND, his son, in love with Donna ClaraBaritone
DONNA LUISA, his daughterSoprano
THE DUENNA, her chaperoneMezzo-Soprano
DON ANTONIO, in love with Donna LuisaTenor
DON ISAAC, a Portuguese Jew, Don Jerome's intended son-in-lawBaritone
LOPEZ, servant to Don Jerome's householdSpeaking role
Servant to Don AntonioSpeaking role
Maid to Donna LuisaSpeaking role
Brethren of Deadly SinTenor/Baritone
Ladies and Gentlemen of Fashion, Townspeople, BeggarsSATB
Strumpet, Cavalier, Bawd, 2 Beaux, Friars, Wench, Cardinal and Priests, Lady in a Sedan Chair, Dancers and Players, Gypsy ChildrenNon-singing parts

Time and Place
Seville, 18th century, between dawn and evening


The Seville merchant Don Jerome intends to marry off his daughter Luisa to Don Isaac, a wealthy but unprepossessing Portuguese Jew, and has driven away her true love, the penniless Don Antonio. Meanwhile Donna Clara, whom Luisa’s brother Ferdinand loves, has run away to avoid being immured in a convent by her tyrannical stepmother. Luisa conspires with her formidable Duenna to fool Don Jerome: they exchange clothes and provoke him to evict the supposed Duenna and lock up ‘Luisa’, thus freeing the true Luisa to look for Antonio, and lining up the Duenna to win her fortune by fascinating and enveigling the hapless Isaac. Searching for Antonio, Luisa meets up with the runaway Clara; then encounters and enlists the aid of Isaac (who has never seen her before) by pretending to be Clara in love with Antonio. Seeing a way of disposing of his rival, Isaac agrees to bring Antonio to her. His own courting of the ugly ‘Luisa’ (the disguised Duenna) takes a turn for the better when she tells him she will only marry him if they elope together, and he realizes that thus he can avoid making an expensive marriage settlement. Having established ‘Clara’ (the real Luisa) in his lodgings, he brings Antonio to her and is overjoyed when the lovers agree that ‘Luisa’ (The Duenna) can be his. Complications ensue when Ferdinand believes that his friend Antonio is about to filch his beloved Clara; but in the end both pairs of lovers are married at a priory, the Duenna gets Isaac, and all schemes are revealed and celebrated at the house of the thoroughly outwitted Don Jerome.

Comic, Poetic, Romantic

History, Relationships, Society, Literary

Recommended Recording
Claire Powell/Neill Archer/Richard van Allan/Adrian Clarke/Eric Roberts/Susannah Glanville/Opera North/English Northern Philharmonia/Antoni Ros Marbà
Chandos CHAN 9520

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