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Judith Weir

Publisher: Chester Music

Miss Fortune (2011)
Work Notes
Opera in seven scenes
Text Writer
Judith Weir
Chester Music Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Sub Category
Year Composed
1 Hour 30 Minutes
S, 2Ms, Ct, T, Bar, B Bar

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Programme Note
Judith Weir Miss Fortune (2011)

Lord Fortune (bass-baritone)
Lady Fortune (mezzo)
Tina, their daughter (soprano)
Fate (counter-tenor)
Hassan, a kebab seller (tenor)
Donna, proprietor of a laundry (mezzo)
Simon, a wealthy young man (high baritone)
Chorus (SATB) of sweatshop workers and party guests

MISS FORTUNE is a contemporary re-telling of a Sicilian folk story. Tina’s wealthy family lose all their possessions overnight and she is thrown into a life of poverty. When her life’s course turns from bad to worse, she makes a date with Fate. Her fortunes mysteriously change, and after several fortuitous happenings, she regains wealth, and, possibly, a husband.

The opera explores what it means to be rich or poor; the mysteries of everyday life; and the effects of chance, luck and accident on human existence.


1. Tina checks her horoscope; her parents Lord and Lady Fortune host a fabulous party, during which, their vast wealth suddenly vanishes in a financial catastrophe. Tina declares she will find an honest job in the real world. Fate hovers in the background.

2. Tina finds herself in a sinister street and makes for a brightly-lit building.

3. The building is a garment sweatshop. The tired workers offer Tina a job sweeping the floor, which she accepts, believing it will be her entrée to the fashion trade. The workers finish their shift, leaving Tina to guard the premises. A mysterious gang of intruders enters and the workshop is destroyed. Alarmed and helpless, Tina escapes.

4. On waste ground, Hassan tends his kebab van and sings a poetic Aubade. Tina rushes in, distressed; Hassan calms her, and they watch the dawn together. Tina is briefly left in charge of the van, which starts to shake, as a gang of attackers break it to bits; Tina rushes away to escape the violence. Fate’s voice is heard again.

5. Donna, in her laundry, ponders the mysteries of the universe. Hassan bursts in, distraught; meanwhile the sweatshop women leave town, after the meltdown of their workplace. Tina appears, stunned and lost. Donna offers her laundry work; Tina sadly accepts; Fate sarcastically urges her on.

Simon, a wealthy customer, calls to collect his shirts. Tina turns pale, and tells Donna about her troubles. Donna suspects the involvement of Fate. She tells Tina to confront him, near a wasteland at the edge of town. Tina makes her way there.


6. At the deserted location, mystical words emerge from the ruins. Tina calls out to Fate; he replies. They reach an uneasy truce.

7. Several months later. Hassan begs in the street outside the laundry. Tina does all the work, Donna relaxes. News comes of a huge unclaimed lottery win in the next town. Fate arrives, incognito, as a customer in the laundry. He gives Donna a ticket which she can’t match to any item in her shop. It is thrown away, and Tina picks it up absent-mindedly.

A positive atmosphere arises. Simon enters to compliment Donna on her exquisite laundering. A ray of light strikes Tina, and Simon is captivated by the sight of her. He recognises Hassan from his youth, and presses money on him.

The elegant women from Lady Fortune’s party arrive, depressed at the collapse of their own fortunes; the male party guests, also desperate, hope to find the missing ticket for the unclaimed lottery win. Lord and Lady Fortune return, ragged and unkempt, from a frightening foreign exile.

Tina emerges from the laundry with Fate’s ticket. All the numbers on it match the lottery win – except the final number, which is one digit out. Tina, moved by everyone’s despair, calls on Fate to re-run the last few seconds, and for a moment, the action moves backwards; after which, her ticket is found to be an exact match after all. She throws it to the crowd, and leaves with Simon for her unknown future. Everyone celebrates, watched thoughtfully by Fate.

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Weir is a splendidly economical composer… (her score) unfolds with mystery and many a glint of unusual colour, felicitous twists of harmony, half-allusions that she calmly makes her own.
Paul Driver, Sunday Times,18/03/2012
Comfortingly tonal and expertly orchestrated.
Andrew Clark, Financial Times,13/03/2012
The music of Judith Weir, who also wrote the libretto for her opera, is neither avant-garde nor experimental but has a highly distilled folkloric style with cantabile voices similar to that of Britten without becoming retrospective. Tonality and atonality are not applied in a strictly antithetical manner, therefore the ideas of the American minimalists Reich and Riley are very present. This music has colour and a rhythmic pulse; it creates characteristic sounds without losing itself in descriptive patterns.
Gerhard R. Koch, Frankfurter Allgemeine,25/07/2011
„Opera for everyone“ was David Poutney’s request to British composer Judith Weir for the commission of the Bregenzer Festspiele and Covent Garden London. He received a colourful oscillating, multi facetted piece which underlies the varied scenes at times with dramatic and alarming as well as rhythmically accentuated music, and at other times with lyrically floating and sublimely glittering music – overall a stylistically rich orchestral language. It is reminiscent of well known composers, layers of sound like Messiaen’s impressionism; Judith Weir combines rhythms and styles without copying and creates a unique and personal idiom.
Katharina von Glasenapp, Neue Vorarlberger Tageszeitung,23/07/2011
Weir’s colourful music which embraces tonality and atonality intelligently demonstrates supreme instrumentation and gratifying vocal writing. Paul Daniel presents the score to its best advantage with the Prague Philharmonic Choir, Vienna Symphony Orchestra and the outstanding soloists. The happy end remains overshadowed: will the joyous crowd find happiness with the lottery win or head for disaster?
Werner Müller-Grimmel, Stuttgarter Zeitung,23/07/2011
With British composer Judith Weir, Pountney starts a series of world premieres in the Grosses Festspielhaus of Bregenz over the next three years. The beginning was promising and ended with much applause and bravos. […] Weir refers to the traditions of the 20th century, however the instrumentation and characterisation of the roles and the plots are handled in such dramatic complexity that it is just a great pleasure to listen to that music.
Christa Dietrich, Kultur D3,22/07/2011
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