Major Operas | Four Saints in Three Acts by Virgil Thomson | Modern Era
Premiered: 1934, Hartford, Connecticut
Libretto by Gertrude Stein with scenario by Maurice Grosser
The saints are introduced. Note that St Teresa of Avila is sung by two performers (soprano and contralto).
Seven tableaux involving St Teresa II, described as a ‘Pageant, or Sunday School Entertainment’, are revealed behind a curtain on the steps of Avila Cathedral. She paints Easter eggs, talking with St Teresa I. St Settlement takes her photograph holding a dove. St Ignatius Loyola serenades her. He offers her flowers. They admire a model of the Heavenly Mansion. She is shown in ecstasy. She rocks an imaginary child in her arms.
The formally dressed Compère and Commère comment on a garden party in the country near Barcelona. There is a Dance of Angels and St Chavez organizes a game. The saints look at the heavenly mansion through a telescope, which St Ignatius refuses to give back to St Teresa I. St Chavez consoles her.
St Ignatius is mending fishing nets in a monastery garden on the coast near Barcelona. Both St Teresas and St Settlement discuss the monastic life with St Ignatius. They see a vision of the Holy Ghost and St Ignatius reproves those who doubt the vision and predicts the Last Judgement. There is a storm and then the saints process out, chanting.
The Compère and Commère are arguing whether there should be a fourth act. The saints, now in heaven, recall their earthly lives. The Compère sings ‘Last Act’, and the saints reply, ‘Which is a fact’.
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