During a quick trip to Ireland after last year, I visited the library archives at Trinity College Dublin to look at the manuscripts of Maudlin of Papplewick by Ina Boyle. Poring over the 622 pages of hand-written score, what I discovered was a charming pastoral opera based on The Sad Shepherd by Ben Jonson. What struck me even more than the story, though, was how successful Boyle’s music is in sustaining the dramatic narrative throughout. Her mastery of both orchestral and chamber textures is evident in skilful instrumentation that supports the voices and underlines the drama. As a student of Vaughan Williams she evokes a distinctive English character, using only a chamber orchestra of eleven instruments: 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Harp, Flute, Oboe, Bassoon, Horn and Timpani.
With the generous support of the Blackwater Valley Festival, Ita Beausang, and Trinity College Dublin I have made my own critical performing edition of Maudlin of Papplewick. I am delighted to collaborate for the first time with the Royal Irish Academy of Music, eleven of whose talented instrumentalists will play in the chamber orchestra.
After months of preparation, for the first time ever, Ina Boyle’s Maudlin of Papplewick, the only surviving opera for the stage by an Irish woman composer, will have its world première with a cast of talented young Irish singers at St Carthage’s Cathedral 30th May, 2020.