Welcome to Purgatory

Welcome to purgatory - CoverOpera for Soprano, Mezzo Soprano, Baritone and Piano.

Music by Betty Roe

Libretto by Marian Lines

The Opera imagines a meeting between the cousins Queen Elizabeth I (soprano) and Mary Queen of Scots (mezzo-soprano).  As they did not meet in their lifetimes, the action occurs in Purgatory, refereed by Giovanni Biscotto (baritone) a servant from the Medici court.

Written for a week long run at the Edinburgh Festival, this compact piece lasting about 50 minutes explores the similarities of the lives of both women.

The role of Biscotto (created by Terry Saunders) has been written to permit the Baritone to be both a character and the show's pianist.  On the occasion where Biscotto has to join the action, Mary Queen of Scotts maintains an ostinato on the piano.

A wonderfully entertaining piece ideal for music colleges and overdue a second production.


Over a jaunty harpsichord figure, a death knell sounds.  Mary Queen of Scots is waiting in Purgatory with Giovanni Biscotto, the "Major Domo" for the proceedings and in life a musician/servant for Machiavelli.  Queen Elizabeth I arrives wearing a death mask and Biscotto introduces her to her cousin and removes her death mask to Elizabeth's horror.  Elizabeth starts to pray but Mary sings;

Too late for prayers (Bar 91)

Biscotto welcomes Elizabeth to Purgatory explaining it is;

Just a Place You Wait (Bar 139)

The two queens argue and Biscotto intervenes freezing them and sings;

                It ever like this with Princes (Bar 219)

The queens discuss Machiavelli's The Prince and what they learned from the book.  They taunt the impostor Biscotto with;

                John Biscuit from Fife (Bar 268)

The subject turns to music and Elizabeth sings;

                Why music if not taste, desire or pains? (Bar 394)

Biscotto plays various dance tunes until the queens settle on a galliard and dance to it.  The death bell sounds again and the three sing a capella;

Momento te mor tuam esse (Momento Mori) (Bar 468)

Biscotto informs Elizabeth that she must prepare her defence to enter heaven.  The queens trade stories of the men who have died for them and will be their judges;

Murderess! Traitor! Blasphemer! Whore! (Bar 520)

Biscotto freezes them again.  Mary and Elizabeth sing of their lost loves Mary for Rizzio and Elizabeth for Essex;

                In the Heart, Always love in the heart (Bar 580)

Elizabeth requests a looking glass before facing her accusers.  Biscotto explains that they are all reflections in Purgatory and Mary sings;

                No mirrors here (Bar 668)

The queens exchange their wishes if they were alive;

                I'd choose to be young (Bar 685)

Elizabeth explains that her council stopped her form marrying and notes that all of Mary's suitors died.  Mary sadly sings;

                The first that I had was a boy (Bar 741)

The death knell sounds again and Biscotto reminds the queens to prepare themselves.  Elizabeth sings that, with her experience as a statesman, she will know what to say;

                Daughter of a King (Bar 805)

Biscotto points out that the queens are accusing each other not defending themselves.  For both to avoid Hell they must refuse to bear witness.  United at last in their silence the two cousins walk into the light to face their judgement as Biscotto plays a postlude.