The Summer Child
up-dated Tuesday 27 September 2022

A chamber opera based on an ancient British legend taken from “Historia Regum Britanniae” 

(The History of the Kings of Britain) by the 12th century Welsh monk Geoffrey of Monmouth.

Synopsis

The opera tells the story of the love triangle between Locrinus and Gwendolen, the mythical first king and queen of England, and the king’s secret concubine Estrildis, who is imprisoned in an underground cave, along with their daughter, Hafren, the eponymous “Summer Child”. Locrinus is terrified to reveal this double life because of the threatening presence of Gwendolen’s aging father, Corineus the giant killer.  The relationship between Corineus and Gwendolen’s son, the young prince Maddan, culminates in the Ballad of Gogmagog, Corineus' account of how he slew the fearsome giant, providing a delightful sub-plot to the story's tragic conclusion. Locrinus deceives both his wife, his father-in-law and his own mother, Ignoge, by pretending that the cave is the ritual shrine of his ancestors. When Corineus dies, Locrinus begins to live openly with Estrildis, banishing Gwendolen to her Cornish home. But the sons of Corineus murder Locrinus in revenge while Gwendolen has Estrildis and Hafren drowned in the River Severn. “Afon Hafren” is the Welsh name for the Severn. The unfolding narrative of the opera is interspersed with a series of interludes describing the flow of the river from source to sea in poetry and music. In the opera’s closing scene, Estrildis and Hafren are overwhelmed by the Severn’s famous tidal bore like a sort of “Deus ex Machina”.

Cast

Estrildis (A woman imprisoned by Locrinus as a sex-slave) – coloratura soprano requiring exceptional vocal range (G3 to Eflat6) and vocal virtuosity.

Chorus – solo counter-tenor performing the river poem during “river-interludes”. The counter-tenor voice emphasises the androgynous nature of the role. 

Locrinus (First King of England) – tenor  

Gwendolen (Queen and wife of Locrinus)– soprano
Maddan (The 7-year-old son of Gwendolen) – ideally a boy soprano, but could be taken by an adult female as a child-impersonator.

Ignoge (Mother of Locrinus) – mezzo-soprano or contralto

Corineus (Father of Gwendolen, also known as the Giant Killer) – bass-baritone - A highly characterful part requiring a big voice and a big personality.

Hafren (The 7-year-old daughter of Estrildis) – as the Summer Child, she is the eponymous character. Could be taken by an adult child-impersonator.

Availability

The Summer Child is a work in progress.  In 2000 I cast the story in the form of a classical drama in blank verse obeying the three unities of time place and action in the manner of Greek tragedians such as Euripides and Sophocles.  My intention was to use the text as the libretto of an opera. Over more than 20 years there were many false starts. in 2021 I finally felt able to begin work on the opera in earnest. A draft of the vocal score with piano reduction was completed in July 2022.  Several short passages have now been drafted in full score for chamber orchestra.

Latest update 27 September 2022:

During the past two months, the vocal score has been substantially revised with the addition of articulation and dynamics throughout.
The counter-tenor vocal line of the two final River Interludes in Act 3 has been completed.
The final scene of act 3 depicting the Severn Bore has been substantially re-written.
I plan to continue with the task of orchestration after a short break.


Documentation

The following material is currently available for perusal on line: