Gaslight

 

Gaslight was composed in 1983 to a Libretto by Marian Lines and Betty Roe based on the play "Gaslight" by Patrick Hamilton.

Synopsis

Mr Manningham has married Bella and keeps a tight rein on her constantly undermining her and questioning her sanity.  After flirting with the maid, he suggests they go to the theatre and Bella is delighted as they rarely go out.  Mr Manningham sings that he once thought of being an actor; To Be, or Not To Be.  Mr Manningham asks Bella to replace the picture on the wall behind her.  Bella argues that she did not remove it and Mr Manningham becomes more insistent, until Bella questions her sanity; I may be going mad.  Mr Manningham questions further items that have moved and suggests she needs her smelling salts.  Bella screams and Mr Manningham withdraws the offer to go to the theatre.  Bella prays and confides in the maid.

Police Inspector Rough arrives and introduces himself to Bella.  Rough explains that Nancy has been his informer in the house gossiping with one of his PCs.  He asks if there is any part of the house that is locked.  Bella explains that the attic is sealed off but Inspector Rough is aware of the footsteps in the attic that Mr Manningham uses as proof of Bella’s madness.  He explains in Once, Long Ago that the house was once owned by an old lady who left all but some precious rubies to charity and that Mr Manningham, her nephew, knew the rubies were still in the attic.  The gaslight fades; Mr Manningham is in the attic.  Rough explains to Bella that Mr Manningham is both a murderer and a bigamist.

Rough calls for the maid, Elizabeth, who is pleased to help.  Rough discovers that Bella has had the nine Barlow Rubies in a broche given to her by Mr Manningham and it is used to apprehend the criminal.

Review from the Sunday Times - March 1983

Felix Aprahamian welcomes a New Opera

 

"Camden's Winter Season has two shows at the Jeannetta Cochrane Theatre. Gaslight is a new chamber opera by Betty Roe, presented by the Intermezzi Ensemble who commissioned it. The libretto, a thoroughly professional piece of writing by Marian Lines, is based on the familiar play by Patrick Hamilton, in which a retired but relentless Police Inspector finally brings the callous murderer and bigamist Man­ningham to book, but not before. the unsuspecting Mrs Manningham has been nearly driven insane. 

Miss Roe's score speaks an unequivocally clear, tonal lingua franca, in which opposites like Britten and Menotti rub shoulders; here and there a piquant cluster, but. more often, sequences of deliciously sugary modulations, a touch, perhaps, of Sondheim and the pure corn of Victorian balladry in a wickedly funny setting of "To be, or not to be". But oh, the joy. of sitting through an opera in which every word sung - a few are spoken. - is eminently singable and projected with unfailing clarity, in which the music moves at the pace of the text, throws up an effective duet or two, and impresses throughout with the sheer professional skill that already marks the libretto. 

Jason Osborn handled the score with persuasive skill his integration of the compact ensemble of nine instrumentalists (string quintet, flute, oboe, clarinet and keyboards) with the five well-contrasted voices of the cast sounding remarkably fluent. Miss Roe's music cer­tainly helped Tom Osborn's production in defining the stage characters: the sinister Jack Manningham (Eric Roberts), the gullibly innocent Bella (Veronica Grange), the flippant Nancy (Karen Broughton), staider Elizabeth (Caron Leatherby) and assured Inspector Rough (Richard Suart). They all sang well. And John Warden's designs properly dressed and sited the spectacle in a London living-room of 1890, for "Gaslight" would, by its very nature, it defy any attempt to shift its time and location."