The Lyric Stage March 8 - Scenes from William Walton's Troilus and Cressida
This week, we have scenes from Wiliam Walton's only full length opera, Troilus and Cressida, with a libretto by Christopher Hassall. The premiere was at Covent Garden in December of 1954.
This premier production had a troubled history. Walton wrote Cressida with Elizsabeth Schwarzkopf in mind, but she begged off although she did record some of the music. The director, Lawrence Olivier, quit before he started. The conductor Malcolm Sargent, refused to wear glasses with some comic results, because he definitely needed them. The libretto was weak, and the critics lukewarm. Among the criticisms was that the music was too old fashioned, which was what Walton intended if you take his word that he wanted to be Pucciniesque.
Set in Troy and the Greek encampment during the Trojan war, and based on the Chaucer version of Troilus and Cressida, Troilus and Cressida is a love story between Troilus and Cressida that becomes a love triangle with the Greek commander Diomede. It doesn't end well, with her father killing Troilus at what was intended to be her wedding to Diomede because she cannot, after all, renounce Troilus. Grieving and a prisoner of the Greeks, Cressida commits suicide.
Judith Howarth sings Cressida, and Arthur Davies is Troilus. The Chorus of Opera North and the English Northern Philharmonia are conducted by Richard Hickox.