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Abelard and Heloise (Libretto)

By Robert Ward

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Opera for mixed voices
Composed by Robert Ward. Full Length Opera. 20th Century. Libretto. Published by Galaxy Music Corporation (EC.7.0277).

Item Number: EC.7.0277

Text: Jan Hartman.

Written by Jan Hartmann

Music Drama in 3 Acts. This is the classic twelfth-century love story between Abelard- cleric, scholar and poet-philosopher- and his young and beautiful student, Heloise. The opera opens on the doorstep of Notre Dame Cathedral of Paris, where Abelard's popularity as a liberal cleric is brought to the fore when he settles a dispute among a group of students. However, Abelard's free-thinking ideas are considered heretical by some who hold power in the church, particularly Bernard, Abbot of Clairvaux, and Fulbert, Canon of Notre Dame. It is Fulbert who has brought Abelard to his house to tutor Heloise, his niece.

As the idyllic summer progresses, Abelard and Heloise fall passionately in love. When the news comes out that Heloise has become pregnant by Abelard, a violent succession of events ensues. Fulbert, in a state of rage, hires thugs to overpower Abelard and castrate him. Meanwhile, Heloise has been spirited away to a convent in Argenteuil.

Abelard accepts his fate as God's will, and even finds solace in his condition, which allows him to return to undivided service to God. In the last act, Abelard is brought before the bishops at Sens and condemned for heresy. The opera ends with the burial of Abelard at the vault in Paraclete as Heloise reads aloud the last letter he wrote to her, and the nuns are singing "Veni Creator Spiritus." Duration: ~ 2 Hours, 15 Minutes

PETER THE VENERABLE (doubles with Zophar) Bass
THIBAULT, protege of Abelard Bass-Baritone
HELOISE, Fulbert's niece, Abelard's pupil Soprano
JOB'S WIFE Mezzo-Soprano
JOB (doubles with Alberic) Bass-Baritone
ELIPHAZ (doubles with Lotulf) Tenor
BILDAD (male attire) Contralto
ABELARD, cleric, scholar and poet-philosopher Tenor
BERNARD, Abbot of Clairvaux Bass
FULBERT, a Canon of Notre Dame, Heloise's uncle Tenor
DENYS, a Canon of Notre Dame Baritone
BERTHE, Fulbert's housekeeper Mezzo-Soprano
THE SUN and THE MOON, two children Non singing
CHORUS, multiple parts

1982, Charlotte Opera

Instrumentation Notes:
2 2 2 2 - 2 1 1 0 - P - H - Str


The score blends rich orchestration and melodious vocal writing to good effect... Ward sets up a parade of solos and duets that cover the musical gamut... The score spills chants, ballads, tightly harmonized choruses and complex jazz rhythms.


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