July 27, 2013
Santa Fe Opera
Santa Fe, NM
John Cox & Theodore Morrison
ADA LEVERSON: Soprano
OSCAR WILDE: Countertenor
FRANK HARRIS: Tenor
WALT WHITMAN: Baritone
LORD ALFRED (BOSIE) DOUGLAS: silent role (dancer)
Oscar Wilde was put on trial and imprisoned under charges of "gross indecency" related to his love affair with Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas). The opera portrays this period in Wilde's life including his trial and imprisonment in Reading Gaol, through to his exile in France at the end of his life. The libretto was crafted from Wilde's documents, writings, poems, letters, and remarks written about Wilde by his contemporaries.
Oscar Wilde was put on trial and imprisoned under charges of "gross indency" related to his love affair with Bosie (Lord Alfred Douglas). The opera, portrays this period in Wilde's life through to his exile in France at the end of his life. The libretto is built from Wilde's documents, writings, poems, letters, and remarks written about Wilde by his contemporaries.
The opera begins in the period while Oscar is awaiting sentencing and living with his friend and confidant Ada Leverson in London. Bosie, Oscar's lover (portrayed by a dancer), under pressure from Oscar, leaves the country, though he haunts Oscar's imagination throughout the opera.
Ada puts Oscar up in her children's nursery where they are joined by their friend Frank Harris. At first the innocent gaiety of their surroundings brightens the mood. Drinks are served and playful repartee prevails. Then the influential Frank reveals that he has made arrangements for Oscar to abscond bail, flee the country and escape the inevitable guilty verdict. After much agonizing, especially over his two young children, Oscar refuses to run away. The only honorable course is to face his accusers. In what essentially becomes a show trial the nursery morphs into the courtroom and the toys enact the proceedings as farce. The "guilty" verdict is handed down and Oscar is sentenced to hard labor for two years.
Act II portrays Oscar's time spent as a prisoner in Reading Gaole and draws heavily on the text from Wilde's famous poem "The Ballad of Reading Gaol". He is rapidly broken in body and spirit by the prison regime. In his feverish weakness he suffers a fall during chapel service and injures his head. Oscar is sent to the infirmary where he is able to talk with other sick prisoners, discovering levels of simple humanity that restore his spirits.
Nearing the end of his sentence Oscar is allowed writing materials, more books and to work in the garden. Ada comes to discuss plans for his return to freedom. Alas, his request to join a closed Christian community has been refused. It will be some time before society is prepared to tolerate his return. Indeed, he will have to pass over to the next life before that process can truly begin.
View Full Score - Act II
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