Franz Schubert Die Verschworenen (The Conspirators)
also known as Der häusliche Krieg (Domestic Warfare)
A Singspiel in one act
Libretto by Ignaz Franz Castelli, after Aristophanes’ Lysistrata (c411 BC)
English translation by Gilly French and Jeremy Gray
Orchestral reduction by Tony Burke for Pocket Publications
The Pfeiffer Hall, Queen’s College, Harley St, London W1
19 and 20 March 2009
|Isella, in love with Udolin||Katya Farkas (Queen’s College)|
|Udolin, in love with Isella||Alice Sharman (Queen’s College)|
|Helene, newly married to Astolf||Alexandra Soiza (Queen’s College)|
|Ludmilla, the Baroness||Theodora Hand (Queen’s College)|
|Herbert, the Baron||Edmund Connolly|
|Astolf, husband of Helene||Tom Raskin|
Queen’s College Chamber Choir
Jessica Mackney, Daisy Hilliard, Katie Levine, Lily Worcester, Ella Clayton, Tyro Heath, Akua Appiah Gilfillian, Hannah Stewart, Frances Good, Liza Bergman, Eleanor Re’Em, Philippa Millward, Tim Lello, Nick Flower, Martin Amherst Lock, Keith Conway
|with the Orchestra of Bampton Classical Opera|
The Baron’s messenger, Udolin, unexpectedly returns home from a year away fighting and is rapturously received (well, on the whole) by his girlfriend Isella (duet: “It’s you; it’s him!”). Isella tells him that the Baroness is convening a special meeting for all the women, and Udolin resolves to dress as a girl in order to spy on the proceedings.
Helene is miserable and is missing her new husband Astolf (Romanze: “Without you life is not the same”). The Baroness holds her meeting (Chorus: “We’ve hurried here at your suggestion”) and encourages the women to find a way to keep their men-folk from a life of violence. Her “cunning little plan” is not met with great enthusiasm, however, as it involves the women withholding their sexual favours until the men promise to give up fighting – but they swear an oath of solidarity nevertheless (Chorus: “Yes, we promise!”).
The men return home triumphant from their slaughter and warfare (March: “A soldier’s life for me!”). Udolin reports on what he has found out through his spying (Chorus: “I have discovered something grave”) and the men decide to retaliate by playing the women at their own game – they too will refuse any affection.
The women temptingly greet the men (Chorus: “We’re very glad to greet you”) but are perturbed when their own plan is forestalled by the men’s complete indifference – the men prefer to go drinking instead. The Baroness finds it difficult to keep the women to their promise, and sends Isella to spy on the men, also requesting a meeting with the Baron.
Astolf and Helene are reunited (Duet: “I’ll wait no longer”) and although she tries to refuse his advances, much against her will, he persuades her that her marriage vows invalidate her later vow of chastity. Nevertheless she momentarily outwits him.
The Baron, who has been drinking with his men, has a difficult interview with his wife (Ariette: “I’ve risked all I have” and Ariette “I know you have risked all”). Isella, collaborating with Udolin, tricks the Baroness into trying on men’s ‘armour’. Thus attired, she is caught by surprise by the Baron (Finale: ”I really can’t believe my eyes”). The women return and, having been duped by Udolin, they also bear arms, believing that this is the only way to win back their men’s affection. Thus they betray their own conspiracy. The Baroness sadly realises she has been outwitted and admits defeat, but the men too graciously acknowledge they have been conquered by love, and relinquish their arms. The true ‘conspirators’, Isella and Udolin, are united “just as we planned”. Amidst general rejoicing, the Baron and his men advise the women to be gentle, and “leave the fighting to the men”.
…delightfully entertaining, remarkably confident and outstandingly assured…
Opera Today, 24 March 2009