A Feast in the Time of Plague

Alex Woolf & David Pountney

September 2020

Britain’s first new opera commission since lockdown

With a libretto by opera-giant Sir David Pountney and music by Alex Woolf, A Feast in the Time of Plague is the only new opera to have been commissioned during lockdown.

Pountney completed the libretto in early June. Award-winning 25-year-old British composer Alex Woolf (described by Gramophone magazine as “a major presence in starry company”) completed his score in 6 weeks.

It will be performed and filmed on the stage of the Theatre in the Woods on 12 / 13 September 2020.

David Pountney Play video  ▸
The Story

Pountney explains how his libretto developed whilst in lockdown in Wales: “I responded to Pushkin’s little fragment by creating 12 – because of the Last Supper – very varied characters ­who arrive voluntarily and most of whom depart involuntarily – i.e. they die. In between they capture the defiance and solidarity that we have all experienced during these strange times. The virus exposes truths about all of us in surprising ways. A Feast in the Time of Plague captures this – as well as the essential lesson that we must carry on laughing.

David spoke to the Financial Times.

Cast

A superb cast of virtuoso performers (nine of whom have taken principal roles at Covent Garden) includes superstar Simon Keenlyside, the Go Compare man Wynne Evans, Susan Bullock and Claire Booth.

ELENA ∙ CLAIRE BOOTH

FREDERIC her butler ∙ PETER HOARE

JOYCE the cook ∙ ANNE-MARIE OWENS

LIDOCHKA her daughter ∙ SORAYA MAFI

CLAIRE the clairvoyant ∙ SUSAN BULLOCK

ANTOINE a playboy ∙ SIMON KEENLYSIDE

MCGUIRE grandmother ∙ JANIS KELLY

PIUS an informer ∙ WYNNE EVANS

KARL a radical bohemian ∙ WILL DAZELEY

Death / Policeman / Judas ∙ CLIVE BAYLEY

ADINA newly wed to Pat ∙ SARAH MINNS

PAT newly-wed to Adina ∙ HARRY THATCHER

Play video  ▸
Pushkin’s Little Tragedies

Pountney’s libretto is loosely based on Alexander Pushkin’s 1830 fragment, one of four Little Tragedies.

All four of Pushkin’s Tragedies have been used by Russian composers as libretti for operas:

The Stone Guest – Dargomyzhsky
Mozart & Salieri – Rimsky-Korsakov
The Miserly Knight – Rachmaninoff
A Feast in the Time of Plague – César Cui. Premiered in Moscow 1901, is set in 1665 London. The Young Man raises a toast to dead friends ‘And so, O Plague, we hail thy reign!’