Riders to the Sea by Vaughan Williams
Sung in English
Music Direction by
Stage Direction by
Sandi Rabas pianist
A Woman-Jess Shultis
Off stage chorus-comprised of Festival females
Before the opera has begun, Maurya, an elderly Irishwoman, has lost
her husband, father-in-law, and four of her six sons at sea. At the
start of the opera, her daughters Nora and Cathleen receive word
that a body that may be their brother Michael, Maurya's fifth son,
has washed up on shore in Donegal, far to the north. The sixth and
last son, Bartley, is planning to go to Galway fair to sell horses.
Maurya is fearful of the sea winds and pleas with Bartley to stay.
But Bartley insists on going and will ride "on the red mare with the
gray pony behind him". Maurya predicts that by nightfall she will
have no living sons, and her daughters chide her for sending Bartley
off with an ill word. Maurya goes after Bartley to bless his voyage.
Nora and Cathleen receive clothing from the drowned corpse that
confirms it as their brother. Maurya returns home, claiming to have
seen the ghost of Michael riding behind Bartley and begins lamenting
the loss of the men in her family to the sea. Nora then sees
villagers carrying a load, which turns out to be the corpse of
Bartley, who has fallen off his horse into the sea and drowned. The
opera closes with Maurya's lament: "They are all gone now, and
there isn't anything more the sea can do to me."