The Lodger (opera)

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The Lodger
Opera by Phyllis Tate
LibrettistDavid Franklin
Based onThe Lodger, 1913 novel by Marie Belloc Lowndes
16 July 1960 (1960-07-16)

The Lodger is an opera in two acts composed by Phyllis Tate. The libretto is by David Franklin, after the 1913 novel of the same name by Marie Belloc Lowndes.[1] The opera was commissioned by the Royal Academy of Music, with a grant from the William Manson Fund, and the premiere took place there on 16 July 1960.

Writing history[edit]

The opera took three years to write, and the planning and libretto-writing took longer than the composing. Tate started with a synopsis, and after Franklin had turned it into a libretto, she acknowledged that "his great experience as a singer at Glyndebourne and Covent Garden has been of enormous help to me." Originally, the first scene would have lasted for eight hours, but "we managed to whittle it down so that the whole opera lasts a mere two and a quarter hours now."[2]


Roles, voice types, premiere cast
Role[3] Voice type Premiere cast, 16 July 1960
Conductor: Myers Foggin[4]
George Bunting bass William McCue
Paper Boy treble or tenor
Emma Bunting mezzo-soprano Jean Evans
Policeman bass-baritone
Daisy soprano
Three cockneys baritone, mezzo-soprano, bass
The Lodger high baritone David Bowman
Joel Chandler tenor John Wakefield
Chorus (soprano, mezzo-soprano, tenor, bass)


Emma Bunting, a poverty-stricken landlady in Victorian London, takes in a gentlemanly lodger who gives financial help to her and her husband George. Slowly it emerges that the lodger is not what he seems, and his religious mania indicates mental and other problems. As the tension mounts and the atmosphere becomes more sinister, Emma agonises over whether to report him to the authorities. The lodger's identity is revealed as Jack the Ripper.[2]

Performance history[edit]

After the premiere at the Royal Academy of Music, the opera was broadcast on the BBC Third Programme on 2 February 1964, with Johanna Peters (Emma), Joseph Ward (the Lodger), Alexander Young (Joel Chandler), Owen Brannigan (George), conducted by Charles Groves.[5][6] The broadcast was recorded at home on professional equipment by Richard Itter of Lyrita Records for his private archive, and released on CD in 2015.

The first professional performance took place on 10 March 1965 at the St Pancras Festival. The Royal Northern College of Music performed the opera in 1970.

The first German performance took place at the Stadttheater Bremerhaven in June 2018 in a German translation by Steffan Piontek and staged by Sam Brown, conducted by Ektoras Tartanis.[7]

Critical opinion[edit]

After the premiere, the editor of Opera magazine noted the "highly competent professionalism and the natural feel for the stage that the composer displays" with the composer able "to write music that can create both atmosphere and tension; how to write music that can be sung (though some of the conversational passages could have moved at a slightly faster pace): how to use her orchestra both economically and effectively". He also praised "the very adroit libretto provided by David Franklin".[8]

Lewis Foreman describes the opera as dramatically effective, "with its fog-and-gaslight atmosphere, and a divided set showing two rooms simultaneously. All this is lightened by a series of jolly choruses and the idiosyncratic use of polkas and waltzes. It remains the composer's most considerable operatic achievement."[9]


  1. ^ Warrack, John; Ewan West (1992). "Franklin, David". The Oxford Dictionary of Opera. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 257. ISBN 978-0-19-869164-8.
  2. ^ a b "Phyllis Tate's Opera: Psychology and Murder in the 1880s": excerpt from The Times, 23 June 1960, in Casebook: Jack the Ripper)
  3. ^ Listing from Edition Peters
  4. ^ Casaglia, Gherardo (2005). "The Lodger, 16 July 1960". L'Almanacco di Gherardo Casaglia (in Italian).
  5. ^ The Musical Times, Vol 105, No. 1451, January 1964, p. 20
  6. ^ Peters's obituary in The Daily Telegraph, 30 May, 2000
  7. ^ Denker, Wolfgang. Report from Bremerhaven, Germany. Opera, Vol. 69, No. 9, September 2018, pp. 1087–1088.
  8. ^ Harold Rosenthal. Royal Academy of Music, London. The Lodger (Phyllis Tate – world premiere). Opera, September 1960, Vol. 11, No. 9, pp. 648–649.
  9. ^ Holden, Amanda; Kenyon, Nicholas; Walsh, Stephen, eds. (1993). The Viking Opera Guide. London: Viking. p. 1081. ISBN 978-0-670-81292-9.