Program notes for

from the Glydebourne Touring Opera's
1994 program book

World premiere - commissioned by Glyndebourne

The Second Mrs Kong

An opera in 2 Acts
Music by Sir Harrison Birtwistle
Libretto by Russell Hoban

Presented with financial support from

Conductor: Elgar Howarth
Director/Designer: Tom Cairns
Co-director/choreographer: Aletta Collins
Lighting Designer: Wofgang Göbbel

KONG: Philip Langridge
PEARL: Helen Field
HEAD OF ORPHEUS: Michael Chance
ANUBIS: Stephen Page
VERMEER: Omar Ebrahim
INANNA: Phyllis Cannan
MR DOLLARAMA: Robert Poulton
MIRROR: Deborah York
MADAME LENA: Nuala Willis

Sung in English

The performance lasts approximately two
and a quarter hours including one interval.

The world of shadows is presided over by Anubis, the jackal-headed boatman who brings the souls of the dead from the world of the living. The head of Orpheus is here, his lost Eurydice also, Vermeer the painter, and the constantly bickering trio of Inanna - a former beauty queen - her husband Mr. Dollarama and her guru Swami Zum Zum. Among these unlikely characters is an idea called Kong, soon to fall in love with Pearl, the girl in Vermeer's famous painting. Will they ever consummate their love? No ordinary boy-girl romance, The Second Mrs Kong, with its poignant blend of humour, heartbreak and passion, is an operatic landmark not to be missed.

Harrison Birtwistle is one of the world's foremost composers: individual, and, even today, controversial. His operas - many monumental in scale - range from the unforgettable The Mask of Orpheus to Gawain, recently revived at the Royal Opera House to huge acclaim. For this new work, Birtwistle has collaborated with Russell Hoban, author of the novels Turtle Diary, Riddley Walker and The Medusa Frequency, as well as many children's books.

An impressive cast includes Philip Langridge, Helen Field and Michael Chance. The production is directed and designed by Tom Cairns in collaboration with the choreographer Aletta Collins, and conducted by Elgar Howarth.

Cast of Characters
From the Universal Edition libretto

Kong, the idea of him: tenor

Pearl, Vermeer's Girl with a Pearl Earring: soprano

Anubis,a jackal-headed boatman &
Death of Kong, a wrong assumption: bass baritone

Vermeer, left behind by Pearl: baritone

Mirror/Mirror Echo, the voice of reflection: lyric soprano

Inanna (Mrs Dollarama), dead former beauty queen: mezzo soprano

Mr Dollarama dead film producer: baritone

Swami Zumzum, Inanna's dead spiritual advisor: light tenor

Orpheus, for ever singing his loss: countertenor

Madame Lena, the customary sphinx: contralto

Four Models, &
Doubt/Fear/Despair/Terror, temptations: as required low mezzo soprano, mezzo soprano, soprano, high soprano

Eurydice, for ever lost to Orpheus: lyric soprano

The Dead, populating the world of shadows: chorus

Monstrous Messenger/Joe Shady: bass

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