Opera Scotland

Rose of Castille The Rose of Castille

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Michael William Balfe (born Dublin, 15 May 1808; died Rowney Abbey, 20 October 1870)


Augustus G Harris and Edmund Falconer (Edmund O'Rourke)


Libretto Le Muletier de Tolède (1854) by Adolphe d'Ennery & 'Clairville' (set by Adolphe Adam)



First Performance: London (Lyceum), 29 October 1857.

First Performance in Scotland: To be confirmed.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



The Rose of Castille was composed on a grander scale than The Bohemian Girl, was an immediate success, and continued to be performed until the First World War. It was commissioned by the Pyne-Harrison company, which was responsible for the creation of several new works around this period, and clocked up a hundred performances within its first year. While it still contains several ballads of the style particularly popular in Britain, it also shows the influence of Italian taste.


Main Characters

Donna Elvira, Queen of León (soprano)

Donna Carmen, her maid of honour (mezzo-soprano)

Don Sancho, King of Castille (tenor)

Don Pedro, Elvira's uncle (baritone)


Plot Summary

Elvira, the heroine, was taken from her convent to ascend the throne of León, at which point Don Sancho, King of Castile, made a formal demand for her marriage to his brother, the Infante Don Sebastian, and the demand was agreed to.

Before the betrothal, however, Elvira is secretly informed that her future spouse intends, under an assumed name and character, to judge whether she meets his approval. She therefore resolves to do likewise. So she and her Maid of Honour, Carmen, disguised as peasant girls, set out on a little journey. At a wayside inn they meet Manuel, a jolly muleteer, and the Queen, thinking he is the Prince, falls in love with him and he with her. However Manuel is in fact Sancho, the King of Castile, himself. But he keeps his disguise to the mystification of Elvira and is mystified by her in turn. Word eventually comes that Sebastian has married someone else and is therefore no longer available. This plot is interspersed with another, in which Don Pedro conspires to depose Elvira and seize the throne himself. Having discovered that the peasant girl is Elvira, he attempts to marry her to Manuel, knowing that this would disqualify her from the succession. But Elvira has discovered Manuel's true identity and is happy to go through with the marriage, thus foiling Pedro's plot.

The Cast

 Duchess of Calatrava
Don Florio de Santa Cruz
 a frivolous old courtier
Don Pedro
 Elvira's uncle, a conspirator
Don Sallust
 a conspirator
Don Sancho
 King of Castille, disguised as Manuel, a muleteer
Donna Carmen
 Elvira's maid of honour
Donna Elvira
 Queen of León, the 'Rose of Castille'
 an Innkeeper

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