Boughton, Rutland: Immortal Hour, The. Rental
Duration: 135 minutes
For soprano, two alto, tenor and two bass soloists and SATB chorus, with flute (doubling piccolo), oboe (doubling cor anglais), two clarinets, bass clarinet, bassoon, two horns, trumpet, tenor trombone, bass trombone, timpani, percussion (one player), harp and strings
Of all landmarks in the history of British opera, none is more remarkable than The Immortal Hour. It still holds the world record for the greatest number of consecutive performances of any serious piece written in England and yet, like its composer Rutland Boughton, the work has been allowed to fall into obscurity.
The opera was adapted from the libretto of a work by William Sharp (alias Fiona Macleod), whose poems and stories became an important aspect of the Celtic revival during the latter part of the 19th century. It was first produced in Glastonbury in August 1914, and in 1921 Sir Barry Jackson, director of the infamous Birmingham Repertory Theatre, persuaded a very reluctant composer to take the work to London. There it proceeded to run with enormous success and enjoyed one of the longest runs of any opera written by an English composer – over 216 consecutive performances, with a further 160 the following year and revivals in 1926 and 1932. Its success was as much for the impression of its music (the Faery Song, for example, endured in many forms) as for the attraction toward the young Gwen Ffrangcon-Davies, whose role as Etain launched her career as an actor.
In 1923, the work was chosen by The Carnegie United Kingdom Trust for publication by Stainer & Bell Ltd.