Snatched by the Gods
Opera in One Act
ORCHESTRATION: 1(pic,afl)1(ca)1(E flat cl)1+cbn/211(T/B)0/2perc/hp/str[188.8.131.52.1]
LIBRETTO BY: William Radice, after Rabindranath Tagore
COMMISSIONED BY: Landeshauptstadt Muenchen for the Muenchener Biennale 1992
DEDICATION: Peter Maxwell Davies
AVAILABILITY: Published by Novello & Co. Ltd., London
PREMIERE DATE: May 11, 1992
(De Nederlandse Opera)
with the Asko Ensemble conducted by David Porcelijn,
11 – 14 May 1992 (Amsterdam) and 22 – 24 May (Munich)
Stage Direction by Pierre Audi
Design by Chloe Obolensky
Lighting by Jean Kalman
Dramaturgy by Klaus Bertisch
Composed April 1989 – July 1990, London
The Libretto is based on Tagore’s narrative poem Debatar Gras. This work, written at the request of Hans Werner Henze, is the first part of the Double Bill which includes its companion work Broken Strings.
“. . .a chilling piece, calmly laid out, expertly paced over just 50 minutes.” – Rodney Milnes, The Times, 15 July 1996
1. NETHERLANDS OPERA for the Munich Biennale, Amsterdam and Munich, 1992, dir. Pierre Audi
2. ALMEIDA OPERA London, 1996, dir. David Farnes
3. SCOTTISH OPERA Glasgow and Edinburgh, 1998, dir. Antony MacDonald
4. MUSIKVERKSTAAT Vienna 1999
5. TRANSPARAANT OPERA Antwerp, Rouen, Rotterdam 2001: Revival of Original Production (Netherlands Opera), dir. Pierre Audi
William Radice (Librettist)
Dawn. As the boat hired to carry Maitra and his group of pilgrims is being loaded, Moksada appears, begging Maitra to let her join the pilgrimage. His concern is for Moksada’s son Rakhal; but when Moksada says that Rakhal will stay with her elder sister Annada, Maitra agrees to let her join them. While she is away collecting her baggage, Rakhal is discovered hiding on the boat: he too wants to join the pilgrimage.
Moksada, returning, is horrified to find her son there. Although the Boatman claims the boat is overloaded, Rakhal’s eagerness persuades Maitra to let him stay. Moksada, furious, curses her son, but immediately realises what she has done, seeks forgiveness and clasps her son to her.
Annada rushes in, appalled at losing Rakhal, and fearful for his safety on the journey. As the wind rises, the Boatman casts off.
An orchestral interlude evokes the voyage and the festival.
The pilgrims wait for the tide to turn so they can return home. Rakhal is now restless and homesick, while Moksada’s anxiety about her curse remains, despite the festival.
The tide swiftly rises and the boat sets out. At first, Maitra and the Pilgrims are exhilarated by the strong wind and current, but Rakhal is frightened, clinging to his mother. The wind turns to a storm: the Pilgrims call on the Boatman to head for the shore, but the boat is now out of control. The gods are angry, claims the Boatman, at having been cheated of their due: the Pilgrims throw their belongings overboard, but to no avail.
Maitra now points to Moksada as the one to blame, and in their panic and fear the other passengers urge that Rakhal be sacrificed to save the rest. Moksada desperately tries to protect him, without success: Rakhal is thrown into the water.
The boy’s drowning screams awaken Maitra’s conscience. As the sun sets and darkness falls, Maitra leaps into the sea.
The Independent (23 February 1998)
Reviewer: Antony Peattie
OPERA (September 1996) (11 July 1996)
Reviewer: Rodney Milnes
The Guardian (4 June 1992)
Reviewer: Tom Sutcliffe