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Libretto by the composer after Sir Samuel Richardson's novel (E)

Scoring

Major roles: dramS,dramT; minor roles: colS,hS,S,M,A,T,Bar;
small roles: girlS,boyS,A,T,Bar,B; chorus; solo female dancer; ballet
3(I,II,III=picc,III=afl).3(III=corA).3(I=Ebcl/ssax,II=asax,III=bcl).
3(III=dbn)-4.3(I=Dtpt).3.1-timp.perc(4):cyms/susp.cym/SD/BD/tam-t/
ratchet/klaxon/glsp/tgl/bells-harp-pft(=cel,optional harm)-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)

World Premiere
18/05/1990
Coliseum, London
Vivian Tierney/Graeme Matheson-Bruce/ Director: David Pountney
Conductor: Oliver Knussen CBE
Company: English National Opera

Roles

CLARISSA HARLOWE Soprano
ANNA HOWE, her confidante and inner voice Coloratura Soprano
MOTHER HARLOWE Mezzo-Soprano
AUNT HARLOWE Mezzo-Soprano
UNCLE HARLOWE Baritone
COUSIN HARLOWE Soprano
BROTHER HARLOWE Tenor
SISTER HARLOWE Mezzo-Soprano
VOICE OF FATHER Bass
SCREWTAPE, the Harlowe's choice of suitor to Clarissa Baritone
LOVELACE Tenor
GENTLEMAN Tenor
DOCTOR Baritone
Synopsis



Clarissa reads in her room a letter from her confidante Anna, who encourages her to solve her predicament by searching out her true desires. Clarissa’s relatives enter, producing the odious suitor Screwtape who they intend her to marry. Though a dutiful daughter, Clarissa harbours an unconscious infatuation for the notorious libertine Lovelace. She refuses to accept Screwtape’s suit and her relatives leave. Expressing her tortured state she hears her father cursing her through the locked door. Fainting, she calls upon Lovelace’s name and, as the walls of her domestic prison dissolve, he appears as if by magic and leads her to freedom. In Lovelace’s London house, Clarissa realises she is just as much a prisoner and she locks herself into a side chamber. Lovelace’s room is transformed into a brothel and he and the Madam contrive to smoke her out. The flames rise and Lovelace’s passion mounts but in the ensuing pandemonium Clarissa escapes. Clarissa is recaptured and returned to Lovelace’s house, weak and bedraggled. After a sleep she seems more compliant to his advances, but she finally refuses him and he takes her by force. She is visited by a doctor whose evasive answers confirm her awareness that her life is ebbing inexorably away. Though Lovelace makes a final attempt to approach her she demands to be left alone. Passing through a nightmare retelling of her ordeals she finds herself surrounded by friendly faces including those of her now benevolent family. Her physical strength fades, but her inner peace grows and her death is transfigured by a radiant acquiescence.

Moods

Dramatic, Romantic, Tragic

Subjects

Literary, Relationships, Society




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