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HELEN HERKLOTS, PAMELA LEWIS, LAWRENCE RICHARD AND MY EIGHTH OPERA
THE THREE WISE MEN
|This opera was designed to follow the two mediaeval operas
The Shepherd and The Star, as it tells the same story as The
Star in modern guise.
It is in the form of a Greek Play, episodes between the choruses, which are certainly Cornish Carols set in an unconventional way.
The Rumanian peasant costumes which were used at the first performance at Kings Langley were generously lent by Mrs. Helen Herklots, who most kindly brought them all the way from Peterborough. They do not imply that the country, which is purely imaginary, is Rumania, any more than the Cornish Carols that it is Cornwall.
The First Carol is "Arise and hail the glorious Star that brought the Wise Men from afar." The Prologue immediately follows this. We first see the Astronomer who is disillusioned because his science cannot explain the riddle of the universe. Next comes the Philosopher who is equally disillusioned because no theory seems foolproof. Lastly the Doctor appears who is disillusioned because no remedy seems capable of producing the true health. They meet and see the unusual Star which seems to be drawing them - where they do not know. They quote from the mediaeval play of the Star "Look the Star. Look the brilliance of the Star" and then in Latin "Ecce Stella in oriente previsa. Iterum precedit nos lucida."
The second chorus is "Awake my harp, my lute and cheerful voice." The First scene follows in which the Officer tries to find out from the Wise Men a reason for their journey to report to Herod.
The next chorus is "See mid yonder stars a luminary bright."
In the Second Scene the Three Wise Men are brought before Herod who expounds his philosophy of life (much to the amusement of the Philosopher) beginning "Mans power is limitless now Science takes the place of God." The music here and when accompanying Herod becomes twelve-tone music, a form of music that was invented in the early twentieth century by Arnold Schoenberg, founded on the twelve tone-row or equal temperament - the tuning of keyboard instruments. My theory is that the twelve tone series cannot possibly be true because it makes F# the same as G flat, C# the same as D flat and G# the same as A flat, whereas all string instruments can make a difference between these notes. It therefore seemed to me highly suitable for this form of music to be used by Herod (a part taken by Laurence Richard) especially when outlining his theories which my Three Wise Men were questioning.
There is a short instrumental intermezzo before Scene III when the Interpreter and the Officer try to show the Wise Men "the model factory" and "the hospital and dispensary", "the Progressive School, and "the stream-lined swimming pool." At last the Doctor says: "Stop! Who are these people gathered here?" The two officers try to move them on. "But this is where lingers our Star." No need to notice them. It is nothing. A group of people come together for a tax-collection or a census. Even in the model state, such things are sometimes necessary," But the Three notice: "so many people gathered here. What are they come for?"
Scene IV. The crowd parts on either side revealing the Madonna with the Holy Child. A Nurse is in attendance and some Shepherds are kneeling before them. The Nurse explains: "This Child has not long been born. There was no room at the inn. But they had to come for fear of Herods decree. And so their little Darling was born in a stable.
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