BRIEF PROGRAMME NOTE
The story of the Norwegian invasion of England in 1066 led by King Harald ‘Hardradi’, which ended in defeat at the battle of Stamford Bridge, nineteen days before the successful Norman invasion at the Battle of Hastings.
King Harald's Saga is a 3-act opera based, as is a good deal of 19th century opera, on an actual historical event; in this case, the Norwegian invasion of England in 1066 led by King Harald 'Hardradi', which ended in defeat at the battle of Stamford Bridge, 19 days before the successful Norman invasion at the Battle of Hastings.
As King Harald's Saga is scored for solo soprano and lasts just under ten minutes, a certain amount of compression has been necessary. The soprano sings 8 solo roles, as well as the part of the Norwegian army; and none of the work's musical items lasts over a minute. Furthermore, since it would be difficult to stage a work which progresses so quickly, the soprano gives a short spoken introduction to each act to establish the staging, as might happen in a radio broadcast of a staged opera.
The musical items are as follows: Act 1 - Harald (aria), Fanfare, Tostig (aria); Act 2 - St Olaf (aria), Harald (aria), Harald's wives (duet); Act 3 - the Norwegian Army (chorus), Messenger (recit), Soldier (aria); Epilogue - the Icelandic sage (recit).
Much of the detail in the libretto has been taken from the account of the invasion in the 13th century Icelandic saga Heimskringla by Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241).
King Harold's Saga was written in 1979 and commissioned by Jane Manning with funds provided by the Arts Council of Great Britain.
© Judith Weir