Richard & Philip … a tragic opera in the making

I’m somehow confident that I can write an opera, and this here is the basic outline of it — with the first rough draft of the libretto and the order of the work – and well, it’s a big project, but something II think I can do — even if it takes me several years. Anyway, successful or not, I’m going to try. I already have a lot of music for it, but well, it’s all very early in the developmental states. It is the story of Richard the Lionhearted, King of England, and King Philip of France – boy, what a tangled web these two families wove. Anyway, here’s where I’m at so far.

Richard and Philip

a Tragic Opera

in 3 Acts

by Jim Hlavac

Cast of characters:

Henry II – Baritone

Eleanor – contralto

Richard the Lionhearted – Tenor

Philip of France – Tenor

Prince John – Bass

Alys, Philip’s sister – soprano

The Pope – Baritone

Berengaria, Richard’s wife – mezzo-soprano

Saladin – Baritone

The young man of the moment – alto

French Chorus – all male

Bride’s Chorus – all female

Crusader’s Chorus – mixed

Knights Chorus – all male

Muslim Chorus – all male

Richard’s Death – mixed

the English chorus – mixed

ACT 1 –

Prelude …

Henry & Eleanor – a love duet

Eleanor: Oh Henry, what a joy you are to my life. What sweetness you bring to me. What a kingdom you have brought me to. I shall be your queen, and love you all your days. I hope to bring you many children, and grow old with you. Your my king, I shall follow you. My lands and yours combined, the greatest nation in Europe. Oh, Henry, be true to me, and let us go forth in life together. I love you my lord, the man of my dreams.

Henry: Oh Eleanor, sweet blossom of love, queen of my heart, it is good to have you near to me. My kingdom is yours. We shall journey together into history. We shall rule our people with kindness and joy, and they shall revere you as their queen. I love you sweet thing, woman of my desires.

scene 1 Takes Place in a French Castle

Henry, Eleanor, Richard & John – a discussion of the family, which boy is favored by whom

Henry: Eleanor, why do you favor one son over the other? And why the third of so many?

Eleanor: Henry, I might ask you the same thing, and why the youngest, and a mean runt at that.
Richard: Oh mother, I did my father no wrong. Oh father, look upon me kindly.

John: Oh Father, I will follow in your footsteps. Mother, I shall be a great king.

Philip & Alys – a discussion duet

French Chorus, joined by John

Chorus: Our king is the finest in Europe. He will revenge our people. He will lead us to greatness.

John: I will work with the French, to overcome my father’s wars against you. I will be king of England one day, and I will work with France for peace.

a young man’s aria

Richard is such a man, I am in love.

scene II takes place in a castle in England

Eleanor’s lament

Oh, how sad my life has become, I am locked in a castle by my husband. Who has mistresses aplenty. I cannot see my children. I am alone and shut off. This is not the love I had dreamed of. This is pain and hurt and loneliness.

Henry & Richard duet

Richard: Father, respect me, I am your son.
Henry: Richard, I don’t like you. I think you are a weakling.
Richard: I am the greatest knight in the land. I lead my armies to victory. I wade into the fray. I am not a coward.
Henry: But you will not do your duty and marry a woman, and bear sons, to be kings of England.

Richard: It is not my way.
Henry: It must be your way, it’s your duty.

The English Chorus

Hail Henry, Hail Richard, our king and prince, leading us to victory and glory. We are the most powerful country in history. All look to us for courage. They envy our success. They pick their sides, but we are all for England and Aquitaine. We shall exercise our power.

Alys’s lament

Nobody really wants me. My father uses me as a pawn for power. I love a married man, Henry, King of England, who has compromised me, and now has cast me aside. My brother views me as a thing to use to make his name grand. They are trying to marry me to a man who will not marry. The very son of the king I love. Perhaps Richard will be king, and I queen, but he will not have me. He throws off every attempt. Perhaps he knows I was with his father. I am no longer pure, and my life is in the hands of others. I await my fate.

Henry’s aria about his end

I am dying. I can only hope my son can keep the peace, and wage just war to preserve my empire. The empire I built up, through war, and marriage and peace agreements. By being a good king. My reign was long. My people are content. I was a good king. But mortal end comes to us all. And now it is my time. I commend myself to God in His Glory and hope to ride next to Him in heaven.


Scene I castle in Paris

Richard & Philip in Paris love duet

Richard: Philip, you are my man. You thrill me to no end. You are the light of my eye. Let us dine and sleep together. Let us be as one.

Philip: Richard, you are my love. How I enjoy you. We are together and it is good. Come, let us dine and sleep together. Let us be as one.

Richard & Philip discussion of reality

Alys joins in as a trio, slightly off to the side

Philip leaves – a duet between Richard & Alys

Richard: Alas, Philip, we are kings, we have our duty. Our fates are entwined but cannot go on together. We have opposing interests, you are France, I am England – perhaps war will come between us.

Philip: Alas, Richard, we are kings, we have our duty. I must make an heir for my kingdom. We are entwined, for good and bad, but we cannot go on together. Fate conspires against us.

Richard/Philip: oh if only we were simple men, in a village, we could go on our own together, traveling, minstrels, playthings for our lives, but we are kings, and we have our duty.

Alys – oh brothers, oh men, what shall I do? You will use me as you wish, but I love and respect you both. I will do as you command.

Richard: I cannot marry you, you have been with my father.

Philip: Alys, you will go marry some duke I shall choose for you, and there be a good woman, and obey your new lord.
Farewell, Richard and Alys, enjoy your time together.

Richard: I’m sorry Alys, but you cannot be my wife.

Alys: more because of who you are, and not because I was with your father, as you think, but maybe I was not.
Richard; you will go to a husband and be a dutiful wife, and that is your fate.

Alys: I was not born to this, but politics and war have made me a pawn for you men.

The Bride’s Chorus

Oh such an eligible duo, Richard and Philip – all the young woman of Europe pine to be chosen to be their queens. With them they shall live in splendor – and hope their husbands do not war too much against each other. There are so many of us potential brides, we are ready to be examined. Two of us will be the lucky girls to become queens of great kingdoms. We await the decision of our lords and masters.

Richard & Philip off to Sicily – entwined arias and bass baritone chorus, and the boy

Richard and Philip: We are off to Jerusalem, to take back the city. We shall lead a glorious march for God, who is on our side in our great plan. We are off to the Levant, to conquer and return the Holy Land to our bosom.

Richard: I shall lead the way, and return with glory to my name. None are more courageous than me.

Philip: I shall lead the way and capture the city, and glory will come to my name.
Chorus: We are off to Jerusalem, following in the footsteps of our kings. We are gone to take the city back from its defilers. We shall conquer it all.

Boy: what an adventure, and I with my love, my king, the man who loves me and tends me and will protect me against all evils.

John in England’s aria

I am finally alone in my domain, prince of the land, but awaiting to be king. Soon word shall come that Richard is dead, and I shall be king. I shall be the greatest king of all England. It is I who was destined for this time. After years of being the lowly youngest son, all my brothers died before me. All were rebellious against my father, and I stayed loyal. My mother doesn’t think much of me, but I shall show her, and she too will die soon. For the years will take their toll.
scene II Italy

The pope & a young man’s duet

Pope: young man, give us this quest for Richard. He is a king, he has his duty. He cannot be yours as with a woman. It is against the way of God.

Young man: Oh holiness, I shall love who I wish, with god on my side. The law of man will not stop my love, and he is the king and may do as he wishes. God will guide us both. Bless us both and do not chastise us.

Eleanor & Berengaria – introduction aria

Eleanor: Ah, a young lady, perfect for my son. Come, let me see you closer, you are a fair maiden to behold.

Berengaria: Oh, what shall I call you if I am to take your son?

Eleanor: Call me mother.
Berengaria: Oh mother, your son is my destiny. I shall serve him and bear him his heirs to rule over this great kingdom of yours.

Eleanor: to the glory of god you shall be a great wife and mother – and the people shall revere you as a great queen.

Eleanor & the Pope duet

Eleanor: oh your holiness – -what do I do about my son?

Pope: It is in the hands of God. He will go to Jerusalem, and be victorious

Eleanor: but what of his refusal to marry

Pope; you have brought him a wife to be, he will do his duty.

Richard & Philip in Sicily duet

Philip: who is this boy you have with you, when I was your chosen one?

Richard: we can no longer be for each other, we are kings, we cannot go on.

Philip: what have I done to you, for you to push me aside? It is for the glory of the battle, that you are now my rival?

Richard: my mother brings a wife for me, I must do my duty. Now I can only have playthings, but not true love.

Philip: yes, we did love one another
Richard: that time has past.

Joined by the Pope – trio

Pope: my dear kings, you are off on a great quest, the lord be with you.

Richard: yes, dear pope, bless us and our men, and fair weather and good winds. We are off for glory

Philip: yes dear pope, you will pray for us and we shall go with strength and valor

Joined by Eleanor & Berengaria – quintet

Eleanor: Richard, I am here, put aside your childishness, and here is your wife.

Berengaria: oh Richard, I aim to do you well.
Richard; Oh mother, I am not ready to marry, not now, I am busy.
Eleanor: you are always busy, but a wife you must have. The pope is here to marry you, what a blessing.
Richard, we cannot get married here in an army camp, it is not right. We need a grand church, we shall find one on the journey.

Eleanor – why are you always stalling?

Richard & Eleanor argument duet

Eleanor: you have get married. You must have heirs.
Richard: it is not my nature.
Eleanor: it must be so. You must do your duty.

Richard: god did not intend it.

Eleanor: you do not know the will of god.
Richard: oh mother, leave me be, stop nagging.
Eleanor: it is my duty
Richard: do as you must, and come along with me, and along the way I will think about it, and then we shall see.
Eleanor: you will marry fair Berengaria, daughter of Navarre, an alliance we need against the Spanish, and Toulouse, and you shall see, she will bear you many sons, to be knights for your glory.

Richard: oh mother, what dreams you have.

the Crusader’s Chorus

We’re off to Jerusalem, fair winds blow our sails. We load our troops and horses, our weapons and our gear. We are ready to do battle. It shall be a fair crossing to the Holy Land. We are blessed by the pople, we have strong leaders, the mother of the king is with us. We shall tarry no further in Italy. Off to Jerusalem, for the glory of god.


scene I Jerusalem

Saladin & Richard – sparing duet

Richard: give up the city Saladin, or we shall take it

Saladin: we shall not go without a fight, and you are not strong enough

Richard: we do not want war

Saladin: we want peace
Richard and Saladin: Let us work together. Let us avoid bloodshed. Let us figure out a way so both sides can live in peace.
Our people might not be pleased, those who thirst for blood, but we both know what is good for our people.

the Knights Chorus

We await the orders to fight. The weather is perfect for the battle. We are come to take the city, the city of our Lord, from the infidels. While we wait we ready ourselves. We practice fighting, and gleam our weapons, we are ready. We await the word.

Richard & Philip fighting duet

Richard: Listen to me and do as I say.
Philip: I did not come all this way to surrender

Richard: it is not surrender, it is peace, we cannot take the city.

Philip: we can try.

Richard: and all of us should die for nothing.

Philip: why do you always go against me.

Richard: we have different ways, and I am the greater warrior, I see this is impossible
Philip: I will try anyway, even without your help.

Richard: I made a peace with Saladin, we might all go into the city.
Philip: I did not make a peace with anyone.
Richard: No, not even with me.

Eleanor & Richard & Berengaria trio

Eleanor: Richard, take your wife, do your duty, your union blessed here in the Holy Land
Richard: Mother, I am not ready.
Eleanor: you are never ready, but there is no time like now
Berengaria: Oh, Richard, I am yours, your wife, ready to bear you heirs, come to me, let us spend the night together.
Richard: dear wife, I have an army to tend.
Eleanor: the army will wait, love will not.

Richard: it is not love mother, but duty, and I am King, and I shall take my time.

Eleanor: a good king goes to his wife, not his men.

(short) Berengaria & Richard love duet

Richard: dear wife, let us know each other, and treat each other with kindness

Berengaria: dear husband, we are for each other, and I will obey

Richard: we will have time yet for children

Berengaria: if only we would hurry, for time waits for no one, not even kings and queens.

the Muslim Chorus

We have won, they did not take Jerusalem. But we shall be gracious in victory and let them worship here if they must.

scene II a castle room

Richard’s aria of captivity

Oh what doom has befallen me. I am captive of a German prince, who demands a great ransom. He saw his chance and he seized me as I tried to walk across his lands in peace. But no, he wants money, his greed overpowers him. He sees me not as a great king, but as a pawn in his power games. Now I sit in this tower room, rarely leaving, awaiting my fate, wondering if my mother can raise the money to parole me.

(off stage) Eleanor: my son is held captive, I must raise money to free him, oh what troubles have befallen me and him.
Berengaria: oh my husband, he is held captive, and I have not known him yet, and who knows if I shall ever know him.
John: oh my brother, he is held captive, what a great thing, for he might well die there and I shall be king.

Richard: One day I shall return to England and take my place and rule in peace.

scene III England

Eleanor & John ransom duet

Eleanor: John, this money is to ransom Richard, not for you to play with. You are preventing his release

John: mother, why should I want him released?

Eleanor: this is why I never liked you, you are mean and aim to take advantage of the misfortune of others.

John: I will be king, and that is my destiny
Eleanor: we shall ransom Richard, who will return to rule.
John: he will not have heirs, he is not that way.

Eleanor: you cannot foretell the future.

John: perhaps I can, but I will not hinder you now. Pay his ransom, and I await another day.

Eleanor: you are my worst son.

Richard & Eleanor reunited duet

Richard: mother, I am home, I am here, oh dear lady, I have been set free by your work.

Eleanor: nothing is too good for you, nothing shall step in my way of helping you be the greatest king of England.

Richard: I have done my job
Eleanor: all except have some children

Richard: that is not my way.

Eleanor: so you have been telling.

Richard: for years now.

Eleanor: Richard, you are my son, and my love, but you are too headstrong. Go to your wife now, and bring me children.

Richard: I must go to France, there is war with Philip

scene IV France

The young man who shoots Richard’s aria

young man: what a lucky shot. I struck the king of England. He lays dying I hear. I did not mean to kill him. I just shot over the walls, for he came for my city. But I struck him. It is fatal, I have heard. Now who knows what is in store for me. They will come at the city harder if he dies. The king’s brother John is far worse a dog, more tenacious in revenge, not as forgiving as King Richard is. What a fate I met, to kill the king of England.

Richard dies chorus

the king is dead, oh lament, the great king is dead. Our lord who ruled us, who nourished us, who led us to great victory. Dead at the hands of a youth. What irony, he loved young men, and was killed by one. Some would say it’s the work of the lord for such things. Perhaps it is just the nature of war. But the king is dead, and now we shall have John, much to our misfortune.

Berengaria’s lament

Oh Richard, you are dead, my sweet husband, 10 years of marriage and we rarely saw each other. Month after month you were away. I was alone. And I am still pure. You never did your duty. You stayed away. Other than three months in the Holy Land we were never together, but I am still the queen, whether consecrated or not. But now that you are gone, I shall go lead a lonely life. I shall enter a convent as a virgin, and live out my days, wondering what could have been.

The end.


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