Opera Scotland

Belshazzar's Feast

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William Walton


Osbert Sitwell


Selected from Biblical sources (Books of Isaiah, Job and Daniel).



First Performance: Leeds (Leeds Town Hall), 8 October 1931.

First Performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Usher Hall), 6 February 1933.



Belshazzar's Feast was commissioned from Walton by the Leeds Triennial Festival of 1931, and is a Cantata for large orchestra, chorus and baritone soloist. The vocalists (chorus and soloist) do not represent a single person, so it is very different in format from an oratorio, such as Handel's Belshazzar, which has frequently been staged in operatic form. It is believed that the use of two brass bands (each of 3 trumpets, 3 trombones and 1 tuba, placed at either side of the stage) was at the suggestion of the Festival's director, Sir Thomas Beecham, who thought the work would only ever be played once, so the composer should take advantage of every opportunity going to gain experience.

The first performance was conducted by Dr Malcolm Sargent, with the well-known baritone Dennis Noble as soloist,

The Cast

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