The Loathly Lady

Comic Opera in Three Acts, 2006

Duration: 96 minutes

The Loathly Lady is an original comic work in three acts, conceived at the cusp between opera and musical theater.
The plot is based on Geoffrey Chaucer’s “The Wife of Bath’s Tale” (c. 1400), in which a cruel knight must discover what women want most. The Loathly Lady’s knight meets a series of opinionated characters in the course of his questing—Sigmund Freud, Jane Austen’s Emma, Sheherezade, Virginia Woolf, Shakespeare’s Titania, the Lady of Shalott. When the knight is in his own medieval world, the music evokes the Ars Nova idioms of Chaucer’s day and is scored for early instruments (with modern substitutions indicated). When the knight encounters characters from other periods and cultures, the idioms and instrumentation shift accordingly.
In this comedy of male-female misunderstanding, magic and science come to blows in the figures of Merlin and Freud. Can we speak to each other across the gulfs of time and gender and world view?
The answer is “perhaps,” and the process of finding out, we hope, will be a feast for the ears, the mind, and the heart.

Dramatic Personae


Maiden/Elf Queen/Lady of Shalott/Loathly Lady

Queen Guenevere

2 Ladies-in-Waiting


Sigmund Freud




Emma Woodhouse

Eliza Doolittle

Virginia Woolf

       Female Chorus (SSA) or 3 soli

Changeling Child, Courtiers, Supernatural Creatures
       Non-singing roles

Instrumental Ensemble

Flute/Baroque Flute
Recorder 1 (sopranino, soprano, alto recorders)
Recorder 2 (alto, tenor, great bass recorders)
Clarinet in Bb/Classical Clarinet in Bb
Reed 1 (soprano shawm, soprano crumhorn, alto crumhorn, tenor shawm)
Reed 2 (soprano shawm, soprano crumhorn, alto shawm, tenor shawm, bass dulcian, bass rackett)
Bassoon/Baroque Bassoon
Trumpet in C
Treble Cornetto
Positive Organ/Harpsichord/Fortepiano/Piano
Percussion 1 (tambourine, vibraslap, nakers, bass drum (shared with player 2))
Percussion 2 (tambourine, vibraslap, tabor, metal wind chimes, large suspended cymbal, chimes, bass drum (shared with player 1))
Treble Viol
Tenor Viol
2 Bass Viols

Contact Paul Richards for details about possible cast doublings and instrument substitution.

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