Kuningas Lear (King Lear) is an opera in two acts by Aulis Sallinen,
with a libretto by the composer, based on the play by William
Shakespeare and premiered in 2000; it was Sallinen’s sixth opera.
3.1 Act 1
3.2 Act 2
Kuningas Lear was commissioned by and first performed by Finnish
Opera on 15 September 2000 at the Finnish National Opera
House. Sallinen has spoken of the major thought that went into
recreating the dramaturgy of the piece, shortening sections and
deleting characters from the cast. His aim was in general to remove as
much as possible of the narrative elements and mainly concentrate on
the "very strong poetical scenes". He insisted that the work requires
Sallinen was particularly inspired by knowing the cast from the start,
especially leading Finnish singers
Matti Salminen and Jorma
Hynninen. One problem was the chorus, as in Shakespeare there are
no lines for a chorus. The composer therefore used groups of singers
for messengers and knights and an off-stage wordless chorus. Although
the work follows closely the story of Shakespeare, the role of Kent
does not appear.
The work was well received at its first production in Helsinki.
The opera has been issued on DVD, in a 2002 performance with the
original cast and conductor.
Premiere cast, 15 September 2000
(Conductor: Okko Kamu)
King of France
Duke of Albany
Knights, messengers, off-stage voices
King Lear decides to divide his realm between his three
daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia. He asks each them to say which
of them loves him the most so as to give her the best portion. Goneril
and Regan claim unbounded love for their father, but Cornelia, the
youngest and favourite of her father, says that she cannot express her
love, and anyway she will give half of it to her future husband. Lear,
furious with the answer, repels Cordelia, and when the King of France
arrives to propose marriage to Cordelia, he takes her despite her
having been disinherited.
Goneril and Regan are disturbed by their
father's outburst and his folly in having a large retinue of knights
Scene 2 – Gloucester's castle
Edmund, bastard son of the Earl of Gloucester, determines to win the
inheritance of Gloucester’s older son and legal heir Edgar. Edmund
tricks the Earl into reading a forged letter in which Edgar is named
in a conspiracy to murder the Earl. Gloucester, disbelieving, asks
that Edmund learn more. Edmund however warns Edgar that his father is
furious and urges Edgar to run away. Edmund next wounds himself, goes
to Gloucester and says that Edgar injured him because he refused to
kill his father. An order to capture Edgar, who has already fled, is
made by Gloucester.
Scene 3 – a forest
Edgar has hidden in a tree-trunk to elude his pursuers; he now
disguises himself as a beggar ‘Poor Tom’ to avoid capture.
Scene 4 – Cornwall's castle
Lear and his followers are aware of a coldness to them by Regan and
her household. Regan eventually condemns the taunting of Lear’s Fool
and the noise of Lear's knights and ask the king to cut back his
retinue. Lear curses Regan;
Goneril supports her sister, and they both
finally insist that the King get rid of all his followers. Lear curses
them both and rushes out into a storm.
Scene 5 – Gloucester's castle
At his castle, Gloucester, still loyal to the King, is bullied. He has
received a secret message about the French army’s plans of attack.
He passes the message to Edmund as he dares not hold on to it. Edmund
thus sees his chance to get rid of his father and gives the Duke of
Cornwall the letter.
Scene 6 – Forest
King Lear’s mind is failing and he wanders with the Fool in a
forest. Edgar, still as the beggar Poor Tom joins them as Lear passes
judgement over his daughters.
Scene 7 – Albany's castle
A secret affair is being carried on by
Goneril and Edmund. She accuses
the Duke of Albany, her husband, of lack of resolution against the
French. Five knights report the Duke of Cornwall’s death, killed by
his own servant after he and Regan had destroyed Gloucester’s eyes,
as they considered him a traitor.
Goneril is stricken by the situation
with Regan a widow and Edmund with her.
Scene 8 – Forest
Gloucester has been blinded by Cornwall and Regan, and walks along a
road where he encounters Edgar, still as Poor Tom. Gloucester cannot
recognize his own son, and asks Poor Tom to take him to the edge of
Dover cliffs; when there he will need no more help. Lear appears, and
the two men meet for the final time. Lear's knights enter to escort
the king to Cordelia.
Scene 9 – a British army camp near Dover
The British and French are poised for battle while
Goneril and Regan
dispute over Edmund. He, however, is wondering which of them would aid
him. Re-reading Goneril's letter he sees a plot to dispose of Albany
when after a successful battle. The British are victors in battle.
Scene 10 – British Camp
Lear and Cordelia have been taken prisoner. They are brought in and
become reconciled to a happy future in prison. A furious row between
Goneril and Regan ends with the latter going off ill.
A knight arrives; he challenges Edmund to a duel taunting him as a
traitor. Edmund loses and the knight reveals himself as Edgar. The
brothers try to reconcile themselves, but
Goneril takes Edmund’s
side, saying that he was betrayed. Albany then reads the letter that
Edmund just passed to him, showing his wife's treachery.
Edgar announces that Gloucester is dead; knights come in to report
Goneril has killed herself after confessing to giving Regan
Edmund then orders men to go quickly to the castle to kill the King
and Cordelia. But the King now enters carrying the corpse of Cordelia.
He dies by her, a broken man.
^ a b c d Anderson, Martin (1999). "Aulis Sallinen, strong and
simple". Finnish Music Quarterly (2). ISSN 0782-1069. Archived
from the original on 15 September 2016.
Matti Salminen steals show as Finnish National Opera's King Lear"
by Hannu-Ilari Lampila, Helsingin Sanomat, 17 September 2000
^ Review of King Lear, Sallinen; Arthaus Musik DVD / Blu-ray. Opera,
August 2015 Vol. 66 No. 8, p1063-65.
^ Adapted from the synopsis by the composer at Aulis Sallinen: King
Lear, instrumentation, synopsis, performances, reviews
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