Watch the reading I self-produced at the National Opera Center in 2015 with a brilliant cast of singers!
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle
An Arthurian comedy with a feminist twist!
The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle is an Arthurian comedy with a feminist message. A forty minute opera in one act, it is structured in 8 scenes and 8 choruses. The six major characters may do double duty as a chorus of townspeople, knights and ladies of the realm.
Attention North American opera companies! Seeking commission for world premiere of the orchestrated version.
Instrumentation (under consideration)
(Fl, Oboe, Cl. in B♭, Bassoon)
Currently available in PV score.
Duration 40 minutes
Libretto by Paul Sills and Arnold Weinstein*
Sir Gromer Somer Joure, bass, King Arthur, baritone, Sir Gawain, tenor, Dame Ragnelle, contralto
Dame Guenevere, high soprano, Dame Ragnelle 2 (transformed), lyric soprano.
Chorus: S1 (Guenevere), S2 (Ragnelle 2), A (Ragnelle), T (Gawain), Br (Arthur), Bs (Gromer). (A separate mixed chorus of 4 to 6 members could be employed.)
King Arthur is hunting in the woods when a disgruntled knight, named Sir Gromer Somer Joure, threatens the king’s life. The knight is outraged that Arthur continues to poach game on his property. When Arthur reminds the knight of the bonds of chivalry, Sir Gromer agrees to spare the king’s life, if he can return within a year’s time with the answer to the question: What do women most desire?
Arthur immediately seeks the help of his best friend, Sir Gawain, and they begin interviewing women in the kingdom but, to no avail. They decide to search in opposite directions at which point Gawain comes upon a loathsome creature in the woods. Half woman, half animal, her name is Dame Ragnelle. She says, she has the answer that he needs but that Gawain must marry her to obtain it. In order to save the king, Gawain brings Ragnelle back to court. Initially reluctant to sacrifice his best friend to the hideous creature, King Arthur blesses the marriage. In a short aria, Dame Ragnelle reveals the answer to the question. Women desire sovereignty. The King delivers the answer to Sir Gromer who albeit, chagrined by the interference of his sister, Dame Ragnelle, pardons the king. A jubilant chorus ensues.
During the wedding preparation a quartet erupts in which Arthur urges Gawain to let him pay off Dame Ragnelle but Gawain insists on remaining true to his knightly oath. Meanwhile, Dame Guenevere is worried about keeping up appearances at court and wants to arrange a secret ceremony. Dame Ragnelle, however, insists on a full blown wedding in public view.
After a chorus, cataloguing all that Dame Ragnelle has devoured at the wedding feast, the couple retires to their bedchamber. When Gawain kisses Ragnelle, she is transformed into a woman of surpassing beauty. Gawain falls instantly in love but Dame Ragnelle (now transformed and sung by a lyric soprano) says he can only have her, as such, half the day and that he must decide which half. Should he have her fair at day in court or fair at night in bed? He decides not to decide and gives her the choice. Dame Ragnelle exclaims that Gawain has given her “her sovereignty.” The spell is broken. She remains fair day and night. The king blesses their marriage and all live happily ever after.
* Being introduced to Bolcom and Weinstein’s Cabaret Songs when I was a pianist for Paul Sperry’s American Vocal Literature Class at Juilliard in 1986 was a turning point in my career path. Subsequently, when I was earning a degree in English at Columbia, I jumped at the opportunity to take Arnold Weinstein’s Dramatic Writing class. We became friends and even went to concerts together. He was very encouraging about my composing and said “love your fast stuff, kid.” After he died I was fortunate to be introduced to Scott Griffin who suggested I consider setting some of Arnold’s still unset lyrical material. This play included in Paul Sills’ Story Theater was already a perfect libretto.
Please contact the composer via the Contact Page to purchase a PV score or to explore commissioning the orchestral premiere of The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle!