A Flight of Pilgrims

Chamber Opera in One Act

Libretto: Marian Lines

Composer: Betty Roe

First Performance: 1992

Notes: Intended as a companion piece to the one act opera “Canterbury Morning” by Betty Roe and Ursula Vaughan Williams.  Preceded Jonathan Dove’s airport set Opera “Flight” by six years.



Mrs Mendoza Mezzo Soprano Four times widowed
Thomas, the Courier Baritone Wheelchair-bound as a result of Polio.
Kevin Tenor Married to Poppy
Poppy Soprano Married to Kevin
Tony Tenor Married to Stella
Stella Soprano Married to Tony
Captain Schwartz Baritone The Pilot



The action takes place at 3am in the departure lounge of a Central European Airport.

The plane nearly crashes but lands safely.  Mrs Mendoza complains to Thomas about the delay.  Thomas speculates that the problems with the plane are God’s way of testing pilgrims.

Thomas' Aria:


Mrs Mendoza tells him how she met her fourth husband in Rio.  Thomas explains that Polio made him unable to walk but his wish to see the Cathedrals of Europe had lead to setting up his travel business.

Kevin, Poppy, Stella and Tony enter with more complaints.  Thomas agrees to check the status of the plane and leaves with Mrs Mendoza.  Poppy sings a lullaby.  Stella wishes she were at home.  Kevin is glad to be away from home and recalls surviving a mortar attack.  Poppy and Stella go to the roof to watch the sunrise.  Tony and Kevin reminisce about lost loves.

Captain Schwartz arrives.  Thomas and Mrs Mendoza return. Captain Schwartz informs the passengers of a blocked fuel line and problems with the undercarriage.  The four men exit to the control tower and Poppy and Stella return.

Poppy envies Stella her new husband.  Mrs Mendoza considers Stella spoilt.  Poppy recalls her wedding day.  Stella defends herself and describes her own wedding day.  Mrs Mendoza encourages Stella to be herself and get out of her husband’s shadow.  The three women compare their circumstances.

The Sun rises.

The passengers are filled with hope and are instructed to board the plane.  They thank God for the new understanding that they have gained.

Arias and Ensembles


1.                        How typical, typical (Mrs Mendoza, Thomas)


2.                        In Rio (Mrs Mendoza)


3.                        I remember rolling down a grassy bank (Thomas)


4.                        Is our glorious leader praying for deliverance (Kevin, Tony, Thomas, Mrs Mendoza)


5.                        Sleep little one, sleep (Poppy, Kevin)


6.                        I came on this pilgrimage to get away from home (Kevin)


7.                        Why did you make me come on this silly trip (Stella, Tony)


8.                        Women, women eh? : I knew a girl once (Tony, Kevin)


9.                        Ladies and Gentlemen… (Captain Schwartz, Kevin, Tony, Mrs Mendoza, Thomas)


10.                    My friends, do not fret yourselves : I had to ditch an aircraft in Tasmania (Captain Schwartz)


11.                    You make one feel so much more confident (Mrs Mendoza, Captain Schwartz, Kevin, Tony, Thomas)


12.                    Where’s Tony? (Stella, Mrs M, Poppy)


13.                    You should have seem me at my wedding (Poppy)


14.                    I know what you think of me : I wanted so much to please father (Stella)


15.                    I wanted children (Mrs Mendoza, Stella, Poppy)


16.                    You should have come up to the Tower (Kevin, Tony, Cpt Schwartz, Thomas)


17.                    The sun is rising, Day is here at last (All)


18.                    Thank you lord, for making me doubt (Thomas, Mrs M, Tony, Stella, Poppy)