The Cloak and Dagger Affair

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Chamber opera in one act by Edward Lambert

after the play Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardin by Federico García Lorca (1928)

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for 3 voices & piano     2018     40 minutes

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first performed as part of the Tete à Tete Opera Festival, London, August 2018

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“Brave and baffling new operatic worlds”. “At its best, the short opera festival offered sophisticated glimpses of the future of the genre… Edward Lambert’s adaptation and setting of a Lorca play in the Music Troupe’s The Cloak and Dagger Affair for three voices and piano was more musically sophisticated, exploiting the physical exertions demanded by extravagant ornamentation to create a score whose eroticism was often visceral.” (The Guardian, 09/08/2018)

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“…Edward Lambert’s beautiful melodic writing, with some particularly rapturous trios. Inspired by Lorca’s use of eighteenth century music in his original, Lambert translates the play into a bel canto opera, including three lyrical erotic songs in Spanish. While the music offers much in the way of loveliness, and it’s an entertaining listen, the opaqueness of the narrative leaves the ending perplexing…” (The Cloak and Dagger Affair, operissimawhispers.com)

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“More traditional in form and presentation, perhaps, or at least differently allusive to opera’s past, Edward Lambert’s The Cloak and Dagger Affair, based upon his own adaptation from Lorca’s Amor de Don Perlimplín con Belisa en su jardin… intriguingly offered elements (at least) of bel canto vocal writing to vie with a more ‘modern’ idiom in his piano writing (and playing), showing us, not unlike Stravinsky, that the smallest changes can sometimes have one listen in a very different way indeed. Pulcinella perhaps inevitably came to mind as this re-imagination of a re-imagination of the commedia dell’arte worked not inconsiderable magic. Excellent performances, once again, from all concerned.” (boulezian.blogspot.com)

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The bookish Perlimplín  has suddenly taken a wife. Does Belisa care for him despite her apparent infidelities? And who is the stranger in the red cloak seen wandering in the garden after their wedding? Belisa is besotted by him, and Perlimplín doesn’t seem to mind…

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Characters

Don Perlimplín, an elderly, learned gentleman, bass

Belisa, his young wife, soprano

Marcolfo, Perlimplín’s manservant, mezzo-soprano

Chorus, sung by the cast

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The middle-aged and bookish Don Perlimplín has been persuaded to marry a sensual young girl, Belisa. It is the day after their wedding, and Perlimplín’s manservant, Marcolfo, reveals that while he slept during the night, Belisa entertained five lovers. Perlimplín seems untroubled by this gossip. He is more concerned that Belisa has fallen for another man, a stranger in a red cloak who has been seen walking in the garden. She receives a love-letter from this youth and Marcolfo tells her the stranger will meet her at ten o’clock that evening. When Perlimplín sees him, he chases after him, while the besotted Belisa sings a serenade to her lover by way of encouragement. A moment later the stranger in the red cloak appears with a dagger through his heart. It appears he has been killed by Perlimplín; but the man in the red cloak is revealed to be Perlimplín himself, who dies as Belisa lovingly embraces him.