Opera Scotland

Hedda Gabler

Tours by decade

1980s - 1 tour

1985 - Scottish Opera
Fully Staged with Orchestra

Tours by location


Edward Harper (born Taunton, 17 March 1941; died Edinburgh, 12 April 2009)


The composer, adapted from the translation by Michael Meyer.


Drama (1890) by Henrik Ibsen (1828-1906).



First performance: Glasgow (Theatre Royal), 5 June 1985.

First performance in UK: As above.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: As above.



Born and raised in Taunton (which may explain his later enthusiasm for the works of Hardy), Harper studied music at Oxford before having a period in Italy. His entire career was spent in the Music Department at Edinburgh University. He composed four operas, all deriving their subject matter from literary classics, beginning in 1975 with Fanny Robin, a short adaptation of episodes from Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd. This excellent piece, drenched in folk influences, was successfully performed by his students in Edinburgh before being repeated by Scottish Opera. Hedda Gabler followed in 1985. He then returned to Hardy for a short adaptation of Under the Greenwood Tree, which was titled The Mellstock Quire (1988). His final opera was an adaptation of William Golding's novel The Spire (1993).


Main Characters

Hedda Gabler (soprano)

Ejlert Løvborg (tenor)

Jørgen Tesman (baritone)

Thea Elvsted (mezzo-soprano)

Judge Brack (bass)

Mademoiselle Danielle (soprano)


Plot Summary

Hedda, daughter of General Gabler, and an eminently respectable young lady, is loved by Ejlert Løvborg, a very bright but dissolute academic. She makes a far safer marriage, to a second intellectual, Tesman. When they return from an extensive honeymoon in Italy, Hedda is pregnant, but bored stiff by the life she sees stretching before her. In Hedda's absence, Løvborg has been taken in hand by her friend Mrs Elvsted, has given up drink, and produced a brilliant thesis, which should allow him to gain the professorship for which Tesman is his rival. To celebrate this event, Tesman and Judge Brack invite him on a final "lads' night out" chez Mdlle Danielle. He is reluctant to go, until taunted to do so by Hedda. During this debauched celebration, he reverts to his old character, gets extremely drunk, and loses the manuscript. When Tesman, having found it, passes it to Hedda, she burns it, out of spite. Tesman is appalled, and a now sober Løvborg shoots himself. Judge Brack offers Hedda a cover up if she will become his mistress. When this is followed by her realisation that Tesman and Mrs Elvsted are going to attempt a reconstruction of the thesis as a tribute to their friend, Hedda shoots herself. 

The Cast

 a maid
Eilert Løvborg
George Tesman
 a research graduate in cultural history
Hedda Gabler
 daughter of General Gabler
Judge Brack
Mademoiselle Danielle
Miss Julia Tesman
 aunt of George Tesman
Mrs Elvsted

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