Lord Byron (Thomson)
Lord Byron is an opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 in three acts by Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson
Virgil Thomson was an American composer and critic. He was instrumental in the development of the "American Sound" in classical music...

 to an original English libretto
A libretto is the text used in an extended musical work such as an opera, operetta, masque, oratorio, cantata, or musical. The term "libretto" is also sometimes used to refer to the text of major liturgical works, such as mass, requiem, and sacred cantata, or even the story line of a...

 by Jack Larson
Jack Larson
Jack Edward Larson is an American actor, librettist, screenwriter and producer. He is best known for his portrayal of photographer/cub reporter Jimmy Olsen on the TV series Adventures of Superman.-Biography:...

, inspired by the historical character Lord Byron. This was Thomson's third and final opera. He wrote the opera on commission from the Ford Foundation
Ford Foundation
The Ford Foundation is a private foundation incorporated in Michigan and based in New York City created to fund programs that were chartered in 1936 by Edsel Ford and Henry Ford....

 for the Metropolitan Opera
Metropolitan Opera
The Metropolitan Opera is an opera company, located in New York City. Originally founded in 1880, the company gave its first performance on October 22, 1883. The company is operated by the non-profit Metropolitan Opera Association, with Peter Gelb as general manager...

 (Met), but the Met never produced the opera. The first performance was at Lincoln Center, New York City
New York City
New York is the most populous city in the United States and the center of the New York Metropolitan Area, one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. New York exerts a significant impact upon global commerce, finance, media, art, fashion, research, technology, education, and...

 in 1972, by the music department of the Juilliard School with John Houseman
John Houseman
John Houseman was a Romanian-born British-American actor and film producer who became known for his highly publicized collaboration with director Orson Welles from their days in the Federal Theatre Project through to the production of Citizen Kane...

 as stage director, Gerhard Samuel as the conductor and Alvin Ailey as the choreographer. A performance of a revised version, by the composer, took place in 1985 with the New York Opera Repertory Theater.

The composer himself had great affection for this opera. The premiere production received mixed reviews, with one particularly negative one from Harold Schonberg, including this description:

"....a very bland score, distressingly banal (all those waltzes!) and frequently gagglingly cutesy."

The opera has not yet received a full-scale professional production. Monadnock Music performed the opera in September 1991.


The opera is set in London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

from 1812 to 1824.

In the nave of Westminster Abbey, Lord Byron's friends, wife and sister have arrived to present a statue of Lord Byron to the Dean of the Abbey, and to lobby for the poet's burial there. They learn that Byron had written his memoirs, which causes them concern for his reputation. The statue of Byron arrives, which sets off memories in the minds of Byron's relations and friends. These include the courtship of Byron with his future wife. However, the memories also include that Byron committed incest with his half-sister Augusta Leigh and fathered her daughter, which led to Byron's self-exile and Byron's wife insisting that he must never see Augusta again. While they have not read Byron's own manuscript, their memories cause enough fear that they burn the memoirs. The Dean of the Abbey arrives, and upon learning that the relatives considered Byron's memoirs unfit for reading, he denies permission to have Byron buried in Westminster Abbey. At the end of the opera, the shades of the poets in the Abbey's Poets Corner welcome Byron among them.


  • Koch: Matthew Lord, Jeanne Ommerle, D'Anna Fortunato, Richard Zeller, Richard Johnson, Gregory Mason, Stephen Owen, Adrienne Csgenery, Thomas Woodman, Louisa Jonason, Donald Collup, David Murray, Jorg Westerkemp, Martin Kelley, Ted Whalen, John Holyoke, David Stoneman, Debra Vanderlinde, Marion Dry; Manadnock Festival Orchestra and Chorus; James Bolle, conductor

In addition, excerpts from the opera, called "Five Tenor Songs from Lord Byron", have been recorded, with the following artists: Martyn Hill, tenor; Budapest Symphony Orchestra; James Bolle, conductor.

External links

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