Opera Scotland

Voice of Ariadne The Voice of Ariadne

Tours by decade

1980s - 1 tour

1981 - Cologne Opera
Fully Staged with Orchestra

Tours by location

Thea Musgrave (born Barnton, near Edinburgh, 27 May 1928)

Amalia Elguera

Short Story The Last of the Valerii (1874) by Henry James (1843-1916).


First performance: Snape (The Maltings), 11 June 1974.
First UK performance: As above.
First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 24 August 1981.
Scottish Opera première: N/A.


The Voice of Ariadne is the third of Musgrave’s operas, and was premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival with a cast that included Thomas Allen and Jill Gomez as Count and Countess. It was greeted as generally successful in musical terms, though not completely effective as a drama. The Henry James short story concentrates on the growing obsession of Count Marco with the past, in the form of an ancient Roman statue excavated from his garden, and the crisis this brings about in his marriage. In the opera, more characters are introduced, and the form of the statue is changed.


Count Marco Valerio (baritone)
The Countess, his American wife (soprano)
Mr Lamb, their friend (baritone)
Marchesa Bianca Bianchi (mezzo-soprano)
Mrs Tracy, an American (mezzo-soprano)
Baldovino, a young Italian (tenor)
Gualtiero, the count’s gardener (baritone)
Giovanni, a young manservant (bass)
The Voice of Ariadne (mezzo-soprano on electronic tape)


Plot Summary
The setting is Count Marco’s palazzo and its surroundings in Rome in the1870s. A legend suggests that a classical statue is buried in the grounds, and that whoever finds it will enjoy happiness. The Count is determined to dig it up, and when something.is found, the Countess organises a party to be present when it is uncovered. However the treasure is not a statue, but merely a plinth, entitled Ariadne, rather than the goddess Marco had hoped for. As his obsession grows, his behaviour becomes notorious, and the Marchesa, determined to win him for herself by breaking up his marriage, misleads the Countess into believing her husband’s love is for another woman, not a statue. They are only reconciled when the Countess mounts the statue and impersonates Ariadne when her husband is praying there, so that he realises Ariadne and his wife were always the one entity.

The Cast

 a young Italian
Count Marco Valerio
 a young manservant
 the count's gardener
Marchesa Bianca Bianchi
 friend of the Valerii
Mr Lamb
 friend of the Valerii
Mrs Tracy
 an American lady
Voice of Ariadne

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