Opera Scotland

Blood Wedding Vérnász

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Sándor Szokolay (born Kúnágota, 30 March 1931)


Gyula Illyés


Play Bodas de Sangre (1933) by Federico Garcia Lorca (1898-1936).



First performance: Budapest (Magyar Allami Operahaz), 31 October 1964.

First UK performance: Edinburgh (King’s Theatre), 27 August 1973.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: N/A.



Blood Wedding was the first of Szokolay’s operas, which later included subjects such as Hamlet, Samson and Savitri. It was an immediate success and was recorded and taken on several tours, including the State Opera’s second visit to Edinburgh, where it was generally found to be a dramatically effective work which showed off the company’s standards very well. None of his later operas has been performed in Britain. His musical style is eclectic, with modernist elements but with more in common with Stravinsky, Britten and Tippett. The libretto is quite a faithful adaptation of the play, the first of Lorca’s three great tragedies – merely an abbreviated text translated into Hungarian.


Main Characters

Mother (contralto)

Bridegroom (tenor)

Neighbour (soprano)

Leonardo (baritone)

Leonardo’s wife (soprano)

Mother-in-law (contralto)

Bride (soprano)

Father of the bride (bass)


Plot Summary

The setting is a Spanish peasant community. Preparations are under way for a village wedding, but in the background is the knowledge of a long-lasting feud between the families. The bridegroom leaves his mother to go and work in his vineyard. She is apprehensive for his safety, but he dismisses her fears as groundless. A neighbour calls on the mother and they discuss the wedding. The mother questions her about the bride, and is told that she is a suitable girl, but that a few years ago, at the age of fifteen, she had been the sweetheart of Leonardo Felix, a member of the family involved in the dispute. The mother becomes very agitated, but her neighbour points out that Leonardo was only a child at the time of the incident. Leonardo is married and has a child. But his wife and mother-in-law are becoming suspicious of his frequent absences The bridegroom and his mother then visit his future wife’s family to finalise plans for the wedding. It is noticeable that while the girl is polite and respectful to them both, she shows no sign of the expected excitement. However she later shows some excitement when a servant mentions having seen Leonardo nearby.

On the morning of the wedding, the bride is moody and apprehensive. The first guest to arrive is Leonardo, having ridden over while his wife walks. It soon becomes clear that the old attraction is still there. The other guests arrive and leave for church. First Leonardo’s wife, still suspicious, takes the opportunity to remind him that they have one child, with another on the way. After the ceremony, as the merry-making starts, the bride gives her new husband no signs of affection, and complaining of fatigue, she goes to lie down. When she is needed to lead the dancing, she is not to be found. Leonardo has also disappeared, and his wife rushes in to say that he and the bride have left on his horse. The bridegroom and other villagers go off in pursuit.

In a woodland clearing at night, three woodcutters discuss the affair, with gloomy predictions for the fate of the runaways. The Moon, in the guise of a fourth woodcutter, and the figure of Death (an old woman) both appear, to watch over events. The bridegroom and his colleagues arrive, and the bridegroom leaves in the company of Death. Leonardo and the bride now appear, resigned to their fate. Later, at the village, Death arrives, and informs the villagers that both men are dead and the bodies being brought in. The mother turns down her neighbour’s offer of hospitality. She can now live without nightmares about knives and guns. The bride comes in, dressed in mourning, and when the neighbour saves her from the mother’s attack she declares that she actually wishes to be killed by her. But the mother has relented since revenge no longer has any meaning. The bride is left alone, weeping.

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