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.
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
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
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.
The following material is currently available for perusal on line: