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Music Text

Libretto after the play 'Inés de Castro' by Jo Clifford (E)


S,2M,T,BBar,B; chorus
2(II=picc).2(II=corA).2(II=Bbcl,bcl).2(II=dbn)- dr/vib(bowed)/crot/t.bells/2handbells(lg)/sizzle cym/mark tree/clash cyms/gong/susp.cym/thundersheet
with superball/finger cyms/anvil/xyl/flexatone/SD/2bongos/4tom-t/5tpl.bl/glsp/tgl/bass lion's roar/metal sheet or plate-harp-pft(=cel)-strings

Abbreviations (PDF)


Boosey & Hawkes

This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Edinburgh Festival
Jonathan Moore, director
Conductor: Richard Armstrong
Company: Helen Field/Jeffrey Lawton/Stafford Dean/Scottish Opera


PEDRO, The Crown Prince Tenor
PACHECO, Advisor to the King Baritone
BLANCA, Pedro's Wife Mezzo-Soprano
ORDINARY PERSONS 1-4 Soprano/Alto/Tenor/Bass (from the Chorus)
Ordinary People, Soldiers, Priests chorus
Time and Place

Portugal, 12th Century


Inés de Castro, the Spanish mistress of Pedro the Portuguese Prince, is considered a threat to the security of the state. Inés yearns for a happier life and recounts her love for Pedro to her nurse who urges caution. Pacheco, the King's adviser, demands ruthless action to protect the crown, but the King vacillates and Inés pleads for her life and for her children. Blanca, the spurned wife of Pedro, insults Inés and gloats over her impending fall. The King relents and allows the lovers to meet before Inés is banished. Their farewell is interrupted by Pacheco who blames Pedro's blunders for turning the war to the enemy's advantage. Inés implores Pedro not to abandon her, but he is determined to reverse his military fortunes. The King blesses his son who leads the Portuguese army to war and certain defeat. Inés is recognised by some Portuguese women and attacked for being an enemy whore. Blanca rescues her, only to express her bitter envy of Inés’s motherhood. Pacheco delivers a bag containing the heads of Inés's children, relating the reasons for his loathing of all Spaniards. Inés is comforted by death in the form of an old woman, who leads her away. Pedro, returning after unexpected victory, learns of the massacre of his family and turns on his father. The King is visited by the old woman who leads him away. The ordinary people sing of the King's funeral and of the feast that is to celebrate the coronation of Pedro. Pacheco's triumph has been short-lived, culminating in a grisly end. Pedro, crowned alongside the exhumed corpse of Inés in queen's regalia, taunts his subjects for their rejection of her. The ghost of Inés returns and speaks to the only person who is able to see her – an innocent girl.

Press Quotes

"...a score of astonishingly vivid and visceral instrumental ideas..."
The Times

"...rare sensuality and dark-hued intensity..."
Daily Telegraph

"...a classic example of the fusion of a brilliant musical score with gut wrenching theatre... It is gripping from start to finish... Underpinning it all is music that has everything - floating lyricism, overpowering emotion, and a fundamental Wagnerian concept of encapsulating and driving the narrative."
The Scotsman

"Inés de Castro is a complex, ambitious work, a modern attempt at grand opera in the tradition of Verdi and Mussorgsky... Mr MacMillan is a serious gifted composer with a public that cares deeply about his work - the first such creature in Britain since the death of Benjamin Britten."
The Wall Street Journal


Dramatic, Romantic, Tragic

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