LEANDER AND LINSEED
contemporary opera 8
Fairy-tale opera in two parts, in Hungarian, with Hungarian surtitles
The tale of Leander the goblin and Princess Linseed, brimming with magic and a seemingly unbreakable curse, not to mention a wealth of twists and turns, is a genuinely good yarn. Set to a libretto by Barnabás Szöllősi that is based on Andor Szilágyi's fable for the theatre and written at the Opera's request in the 2014/15 season, Erkel Prize-winning composer Zsófia Tallér's masterful, expressive and entertaining music makes this Hungarian fairy tale opera an enjoyable experience for children and adults alike, and, we hope, a possible future classic.
The melancholy goblin Leander has been holding King Baldemar the Second as his prisoner for the last 17 years and nine months as punishment for accidentally shooting his favourite cat and only friend, Czirbolya, with an arrow. Leander also has a servant, a forest gnome named Berry, who has had no other work for the last nearly two decades other than to torment his royal prisoner. But now he's getting bored of this behaviour and begs his master to set the king free. Leander, in exchange for his cat and the king's freedom, demands that King Baldemar give him something the king doesn't even know he possesses. The newly released monarch only understands what he's giving away after he has promised it and returns home to his palace to find he has a daughter, Princess Linseed, who is now celebrating her 17th birthday. Baldemar hasn't been away for one day, as he thought, but for exactly 17 years and nine months!
He locks his daughter in a cage and calls on her suitor, Prince Bitesting, to come to her defence. Leander comes for Linseed and immediately falls in love with the beautiful girl, who in turn finds herself enchanted with the goblin's marvellous voice and kind speech. Leander loses his courage and leaves the girl behind, but then is overcome with love and returns, only to face the cowardly Prince Bitesting's hornet brigade. He defeats the insect soldiers and sends the prince fleeing, but at the critical moment Linseed has her first glimpse of Leander and, repulsed by his ugliness, thrusts the rose he has given her as a gift into his face. Leander departs in shame.
Linseed and her servant Chickbeak are in the court of the Honeycoat Fairy for a lesson in etiquette. Linseed realises that she's in love with Leander, and the girls resolve to escape, because King Baldemar and his retinue are planning to hold the wedding there. Despite all of this, Prince Bitesting forgets that he is betrothed to Linseed and instead falls in love with Honeycoat Fairy. After the girls escape, the two new lovers also head off on the same path as the runaways. In the meantime, Leander has forgiven Linseed for the rose she threw in his face and heads out to Honeycoat Fairy's domain in order to rescue her. No one finds anyone. The two girls encounter Berry in the woods, and the gnome and Chickbeak also fall in love with each other. Berry only knows one way to rescue Leander: by enlisting the help of Blindleech. Linseed does so, but finding the right path will cost her her eyesight: the only way she can find Leander is by blindly following her heart. This sacrifice lifts Honeycoat's curse, and Leander reverts into a man, and a handsome one at that. By threatening Blindleech, he regains Linseed's eyesight for her, and Leander and Linseed, together with Berry and Chickbeak, head off to the royal couple to bless their nuptials. Honeycoat and Prince Bitesting join them at the palace, where a triple wedding ensues.