COMPOSER 1945–2013

Opus 81

The Chronicle of Nine (1984)

for Soprano, Two Altos, Four Tenors, Two Baritones, Bass, SATB Chorus, Orchestra

Libretto by Florence Stevenson

Duration: 120 min.

Recording: Albany TROY1353-54

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The Chronicle of Nine is based on a historical drama of the same name, written by Florence Stevenson, based on the life and nine-day reign of Lady Jane Grey as Queen of England in 1553.

The three acts begin with orchestral preludes, followed by introductory ballads sung by a minstrel. The first of these welcomes the audience and prepares them for a sad story. The action of Act I centers around Jane’s arranged wedding with Guildford Dudley. When her parents inform her of this plan she sings an aria of lament, to the passion text in the St. Luke gospel. A large-scale wedding ballet is followed by a discussion between Lord Dudley and John.

Act II concerns Jane’s coronation. The minstrel sings of her attendant crown and jewels.

Early in Act III, Jane, now deposed, is in prison, as is her husband, but he is allowed to visit her. Although married, they have not consummated their relationship and the scene, tentatively at first, is something of a love duet. At the end Jane sings of her hope that she is now pregnant with a son, and muses on Queen Mary’s kindness, while Guildford sings tenderly of the kindness of  “this queen”. Act III culminates in Jane’s execution and the Minstrel’s ballad concerns the failure of the duke of Northumberland’s forces to achieve a military victory for Jane’s cause, and goes on to describe a bright sunlit Monday as the approaching day of the beheading. Scene 2 describes Mary’s visit to Jane’s cell. Jane’s father and uncles, under the leadership of one Wyatt have again attempted to proclaim Jane as ruler; their rebellion has failed. To protect the crown from further jeopardy, Mary contends that she cannot sign Jane’s pardon and the execution will proceed. She sings of her need to find Jane guilty of plots against her, and goes on as to the cruel deeds she now must perform. Mary will send her priest to say prayers for Jane, who answers that Mary has more need for these prayers than does she. The final scene begins with a version of the Cries of London and leads to Jane’s farewell and execution. (Notes by Arnold Rosner)

The complete opera has not yet been performed or recorded. However, a number of excerpts have been.

The purely orchestral preludes to each of the three acts plus the wedding ballet comprise the four movement Symphony No. 7, “The Tragedy of Queen Jane.”

The three minstrel ballads that precede each act comprise the song cycle Minstrel to an Unquiet Lady.

Jane’s extensive “Good Friday Aria” (Into Thy Hands) from Act I, Scene 2 is also a performable extract and has been separately recorded.