Opera Scotland

Feast in Time of Plague A Feast in Time of Plague

Tours by decade

Tours by location


César Antonovich Cui (born Vilnius 6/18 January 1835; died Petrograd 26 March 1918).


Play (1830) by Alexander Pushkin (1799-1837)


Dramatic Poem (1816) by John Wilson (1785-1854)



First Performance: Moscow (New Theatre(, 24 November  1901 (NS).

First Performance in UK: tbc.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (New Athenaeum Theatre), 18 March 2023.



The source is one of Pushkin's four 'Little Tragedies' of 1830, with Cui setting the entire text.  The previous three were all set as operas by more important Russian composers - The Stone Guest (Dargomyzhsky 1872); Mozart and Salieri (Rimsky-Korsakov 1898) and The Miserly Knight (Rachmaninov 1906).



Walsingham, the chairman (baritone)

Priest (bass)

Mary (mezzo-soprano)

Young Man (tenor)

Louisa (soprano)

Plague Doctor (silent)



The setting is London, during the Great Plague of 1665.  A feast is in progress. The atmosphere is grim as several chairs are unfilled, and the Young Man offers a toast to the memory of one friend he knows to have died.  Walsingham invites Mary to sing, and she responds with a very mournful ballad about an earlier plague and the silence it caused.

The cart goes past piled with corpses for burial.  Louisa faints, having had a vision that she was dragged off for disposal while still alive.  The cart driver seemed to her to be a demon.

The Young Man asks for some more cheerful music, but Walsingham responds with a hymn he has just composed himself.  A Priest reprimands the assembled company for what he sees as their debauchery - Walsingham in particular is targeted as his mother has only recently been buried.  The company reject the Priest's advice and resume their revelry.

The Cast

Plague Doctor
 the President
Young Man

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2023

Site by SiteBuddha