Reference Entry

Mines of Sulphur, The

Susan Bradshaw

in Oxford Music Online

Published in print December 1992 |
Published online January 2002 | e-ISBN: 9781561592630 | DOI:

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Opera in three acts by Richard Rodney Bennett to a libretto by Beverley Cross; London, Sadler’s Wells, 24 February 1965.

The action takes place in the mid-18th century in a decaying manor house in the west of England. Boconnion (tenor), a deserter, aided and abetted by Tovey (baritone), a tramp, and Rosalind (mezzo-soprano), a gypsy, murder the landowner Braxton (bass-baritone) in order to steal the wealth they feel he has done nothing to deserve. Their celebrations (during which they don grand clothing found in the house) are interrupted by the arrival of a troupe of actors seeking shelter for the night: Jenny (soprano), Leda (contralto), Fenney (tenor) and Tooley (baritone), together with the actor-manager Sherrin (bass-baritone, doubling the murdered Braxton) and Trim (mime-dancer), a mute. Boconnion agrees, in return for a performance of their latest play, The Mines of Sulphur. This tells of a wealthy count who is persuaded by his valet to seek the hand of a beautiful girl. Alas, the girl falls in love with the valet, and when the count fails to carry out his threat to kill them both she hands the knife to her lover, daring him to turn the tables on her husband. All this is too much for the audience of Braxton’s killers. As they shout for the play to stop, it is seen that the actress Jenny has fainted; escorting her upstairs, Tooley finds Braxton’s body together with Boconnion’s discarded army uniform. Realizing that the game is up, Boconnion plans to confine the theatrical troupe to the cellar before setting fire to the house and making good his escape with Rosalind and Tovey. The ailing Jenny reappears and, just as the evil trio are about to leave, she reveals the dreadful truth that there can be no escape: she is infected with the plague....

Reference Entry.  397 words. 

Subjects: Opera ; Musical Scores, Lyrics, and Libretti

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