The one-act opera Djamileh by Georges Bizet set to the libretto by Louis Gallet tells an oriental love story between the slave named Djamileh and Cairo sultan Haroun. The plot, bringing to mind the atmosphere of One Thousand and One Nights, is a quite typical example of Romantic fascinations with the Far East. Bizet's had his doubts about the work- many considered it to be too difficult for a stage adaptation. However, the artistic craft of the creator of the balanced libretto surrounding the story of oriental lovers with a suggestive sound, and the craftsmanship of Jennifer Feinstein, performing the title, allows the listener to enjoy all the values ??of this little known opera. Mezzo-soprano Jennifer Feinstein has been likened by the Los Angeles Times to "a young Horne, so rich is her mezzo and so full of spark was she on stage." She is becoming increasingly coveted for her portrayals of the dramatic mezzo repertoire. — Naxos
The opera observes classical unities of a single setting for the plot, with the events occurring in real time on a single day. The story focuses on the conversations between Falstaff and Prince Hal, and the characters who wander in and out of the Boar's Head Tavern in Eastcheap. Throughout the story, the sound of door knocks bring reminders of events happening in the world outside the tavern, including the marching of soldiers to war.
The story begins in late afternoon, as Bardolph, Gadshill and Peto sing and drink in an upstairs room at the tavern. Falstaff arrives, followed by Prince Hal and Poins, whom Falstaff accuses of cowardice, for not assisting him in an attempted highway robbery earlier that day. Falstaff exaggerates the story, until Prince Hal says that he and Poins had stolen from Falstaff money that had prior been taken from unarmed travellers.
The Hostess announces the arrival of a gentleman from Court, whereupon Falstaff and the others leave. After Prince Hal delivers a soliloquy, Falstaff and the others return with news that civil war has begun. Falstaff advises Prince Hal to rehearse what he will say to the King before he returns to Court. Prince Hal practices with Falstaff in the role of the King, and later the two trade roles.
Doll Tearsheet arrives, and Prince Hal and Poins don disguises to be able to observe her and Falstaff's behaviour. Falstaff asks for a song, whereupon the disguised Prince Hal sings Shakespeare's sonnet 19, "Devouring Time, blunt though the lion's paws". Falstaff is displeased and interrupts with the ballad "When Arthur first in Court began", and the two songs continue in parallel. A distant march precedes a communication from Bardolph to Prince Hal, who must go to the Court at Westminster. Prince Hal and Poins remove their disguises and leave to the shouts of the outside crowd.
Pistol calls to Falstaff off-stage, and then enters the inn, in spite of the misgivings of Doll and the concern of the Hostess for the inn's reputation. Pistol and Doll argue vehemently, and Pistol is ejected. Bardolph arrives with word that a dozen captains are searching all the taverns for Falstaff. Falstaff bids Doll farewell, but at the end, before all the men go off to war, Bardolph brings a last message for Doll Tearsheet to meet Falstaff one last time. The hostess pushes Doll through the door to the assignation at the close of the opera.
Regarded by many as the finest of all his stage-works, The Turn of the Screw, Britten’s final chamber opera, was written in the incredibly short period of just four months in 1954. The work is based on the novel of the same name by Henry James which Britten had known for many years: a tale of good versus evil, natural versus the supernatural, possession and exorcism, set within the domestic proprieties of the Essex country house of Bly - ingredients which would have had an obvious appeal for the composer. Above all, Britten’s favourite theme of the corruption of innocence must have attracted him more than any other.
The story also lends itself to Britten’s gifts for apt and distinctive musical characterisation, the relatively ‘pure’ and uncomplicated music for the opera’s mortals contrasting strongly with the alluring, other-worldly music associated with the ghosts.
The work is one of the most tautly constructed and tightly-knit of all Britten’s operas, the musical material almost wholly derived from the twelve-note ‘Screw’ theme heard near the work’s opening. However, this very concentration helps give this work its overwhelming feeling of intense claustrophobia and its astonishing dramatic power can have a shattering impact in the theatre. — Boosey & Hawkes
ACT ONE begins five years after the Trojan War. Back in Aulis, at the end of Gluck's earlier opera Iphigenie en Aulide, Iphigenia's father Agamemnon had intended to sacrifice her to the gods, in exchange for good battle weather. But her life was saved by the goddess Diana.
Now, Iphigenia is serving as a priestess among her enemies, the rather barbaric Scythians, in Tauris. Her mother, Clytemnestra, has killed Agamemnon, and her brother Orestes has killed Clytemnestra in revenge. Iphigenia doesn't yet know any of this, but in act one, she relates a dream in which both of her parents are dead, and she herself is forced by a "fatal power" to kill Orestes.
Thoas, the Scythian King, has a vision of his own -- a premonition that a foreigner will murder him. So when two strangers are brought in, he orders Iphigenia and her priestesses to sacrifice them.
In ACT TWO, when Iphigenia meets the prisoners, she can't help but notice that one of them bears a strong resemblance to her brother Orestes. Of course, it is Orestes. But neither one of them figures that out for quite some time. The other stranger is Orestes' friend, Pylades. When the two prisoners are alone, Orestes is tortured by the Furies, who have hounded him ever since he killed his mother.
Iphigenia and Orestes then talk together -- but without recognizing each other. Iphigenia finds out that Orestes is from back home, in Greece, and asks for news of King Agamemnon's family -- that is, for news of her own family. Orestes tells her what happened, but doesn't tell her who he is. Instead, he says that everyone in the king's family is dead, except Iphigenia's sister Elektra. Iphigenia mourns for her supposedly dead brother, and the second act ends.
As ACT THREE begins, despite Thoas's order, Iphigenia decides to allow one of the two prisoners to go free. She hopes it can be Orestes, as she has grown fond of him. But Orestes has felt he was going mad ever since he killed Clytemnestra. So he urges Pylades to go, feeling he himself is better off dead. Reluctantly, Pylades agrees to escape, with Iphigenia's help.
In ACT FOUR, it's finally time for Iphigenia to go through with the sacrifice, and kill Orestes. But at the sacrificial altar, they finally recognize one another. When Thoas finds out who his priestess and the prisoner really are, he decides to kill them both. But just then Pylades returns with an army of Greeks. The two sides battle until the goddess Diana appears. She puts a stop to the fighting, and grants Iphigenia and Orestes a safe passage home. -NPR
Archibaldo, the blind king, conquered the kingdom of Altura forty years before the opera begins. After forty years, the Alturan people openly object to the reign of the Germanic Archibaldo. Archibaldo recounts his memories of the thrill of conquest, and his reminiscence equates the invasion of Italy to the winning of a beautiful woman.
The story unfolds as we learn that Archibaldo's son Manfredo has been married to the native Alturan princess Fiora. But Fiora is having an affair with another Alturan prince, Avito. Although Archibaldo suspects Fiora of infidelity, he falls short of proof, since he is blind, and his own Alturan servants do not cooperate with him in uncovering the affair.
In the first two acts there are various scenarios played out with mounting intensity. There are two love duets between Avito and Fiora, and a scene in which Manfredo pours out his love for Fiora and begs her to show him affection. All of these are interspersed with scenes in which Archibaldo questions Fiora. Finally, enraged, Archibaldo strangles her at the end of the second act.
In the final act, Fiora's body is laid in a crypt, and the people of Altura mourn for her. Archibaldo has secretly poisoned Fiora's lips, so that her lover will die. Avito kisses Fiora's lips. As he dies from the poison, Avito reveals to Manfredo that he was Fiora's lover, and that Archibaldo has laid the poison. Stricken with grief at the loss of the woman he loved, Manfredo also kisses Fiora's lips. Finally, Archibaldo enters to see if his trap has caught Fiora's lover, and despairs as he hears the voice of his dying son.
Maria tells her sister Ines that she hopes to marry Don Pedro, the ruler of Castile. When he sneaks into her room disguised as Mendez, Maria tells him that she knows his true identity and demands marriage to save her honour. Don Pedro acquiesces, although the marriage must be kept secret. After their elopement, a faction of the Don Pedro's court wants him marry Bianca, a Bourbon princess, in order to avoid a civil war. He appears to be negotiating this, despite his secret marriage to Maria.
Meanwhile, Maria's father, Don Ruiz di Padilla, appears at the court. Believing that she is merely Don Pedro's mistress, he challenges the prince to a duel, but is led away in disgrace. Maria visits her father and tries to explain that she is the secret wife of Don Pedro, but her father refuses to listen.
Much to Maria's horror, Bianca arrives at the court, and is welcomed by Maria's enemies there as Don Pedro's bride and their queen. Instead, Don Pedro proclaims Maria as his queen and she dies of joy. (In the original ending which was changed by the censors, Maria grabbed the crown from Bianca's head and then committed suicide.