The Rising of the Moon (opera)

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The Rising of the Moon
Opera by Nicholas Maw
Glyndebourne - house with sheep and ha-ha - - 70380.jpg
Glyndebourne House, where The Rising of the Moon premiered
Librettist Beverley Cross
Premiere 19 July 1970 (1970-07-19)
Glyndebourne Festival

The Rising of the Moon is an operatic comedy in three acts composed by Nicholas Maw to a libretto by Beverley Cross. It premiered on 19 July 1970 at the Glyndebourne Festival conducted by Raymond Leppard and directed by Colin Graham. The title comes from the Irish patriotic song of the same name.

The opera was composed over a period from 1967 to 1970 while Maw was the artist-in-residence at Trinity College, Cambridge. It was Maw's second opera, and like his first, One Man Show, is a comedy. However, while One Man Show was a farce, The Rising of the Moon is in the genre of romantic comedy with a plot about British soldiers stationed in 19th-century Ireland at the time of the Irish famines. Its premiere at Glyndebourne in 1970 during The Troubles, a period of intense ethno-political conflict in Northern Ireland, was "felt to be tactless" by some critics, according to Maw's obituary in The Daily Telegraph.[1] Nevertheless, the opera ran at 90% capacity at Glyndebourne and was revived the following year after Maw had made adjustments to the score.[2][3] The opera was subsequently performed in Bremen and Graz in 1978 and at the Guildhall School of Music in 1986. It was also revived at the Wexford Opera Festival in 1990.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 19 July 1970
(Conductor: Raymond Leppard)[4]
Brother Timothy tenor Alexander Oliver
Cornet John Stephen Beaumont tenor John Wakefield
Cathleen Sweeney mezzo-soprano Anne Howells
Colonel Lord Jowler bass Richard Van Allan
Lady Eugenie Jowler, his wife soprano Rae Woodland
Major Max von Zastrow baritone Peter Gottlieb
Frau Elizabeth von Zastrow, his wife mezzo-soprano Kerstin Meyer
Captain Lillywhite, the Adjutant tenor John Fryatt
Miss Atalanta Lillywhite, his daughter soprano Annon Lee Silver
Corporal of Horse Hayward bass-baritone Brian Donlan
Donal O'Dowd baritone John Gibbs
The Widow Sweeney mezzo-soprano Johanna Peters
Mr Lynch bass Dennis Wicks
Gaveston tenor
Willoughby tenor
Officers and Men of the 31st Royal Lancers


Place: the town of Ballinvourney on the plains of Mayo, Ireland
Time: An autumn day and night in 1875

Act 1[edit]

The monastery of St Brendan the Less

The opera opens with an aria sung by Brother Timothy, the only remaining monk in a run-down monastery which has been appropriated for the officers' mess of the British Army's 31st Lancers. Cornet Beaumont, a dilettante, has joined the regiment because he likes its uniform. An initiation ceremony is organised: he must smoke three cigars, drink three bottles of champagne and seduce three women before the following day's reveille. Beaumont agrees, but the plan is overheard by the local inhabitants who are no lovers of the English.

Act 2[edit]

Inside Sweeney's Inn

Beaumont is introduced to the inn, and Lady Jowler and Elisabeth von Zastrow become the first two of his conquests. The third is to be Atalanta, but Cathleen, the innkeeper's daughter, substitutes herself.

Act 3[edit]

The monastery

Beaumont provides evidence of his conquests to his superiors. This information leads to general embarrassment. Beaumont resigns his commission, the regiment moves out, and Cathleen is devastated. The rest of the locals rejoice, and Brother Timothy provides an appropriate epilogue.[5]


  1. ^ Daily Telegraph (19 May 2009). See also Sutcliffe (29 November 2002)
  2. ^ The Times (20 May 2009)
  3. ^ Sutcliffe (29 November 2002)
  4. ^ Norwich, John Julius (1985). Fifty Years of Glyndebourne, p. 181. London: Jonathan Cape. ISBN 0-224-02310-1. 
  5. ^ Goodwin, Noël, The Rising of the Moon, in Sadie, Stanley (ed) (1992). The New Grove Dictionary of Opera vol. 3, p.1348. Oxford: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0-19-522186-2.