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The King's Henchman

lyric drama in three acts

Music by Deems Taylor
Libretto by Edna St. Vincent Millay
About The King's Henchman

Taylor's first opera was written for and premiered at the Met, with Lawrence Tibbett in the leading role.

Cast of Characters
Eadgar, King of England, bar Dunstan, Archbishop of Canterbury
Aethelwold, Earl of East Anglia, t Ordgar, thane of Devon
Maccus, servant and friend to Aethelwold Thored, Master-of-the-Household to Ordgar
Hwita, Cup-bearer to the King Aelfrida, daughter of Ordgar, s
Ase, servant to Aelfrida Gunner
Cynric Wulfred
Oslac Ingild
Brand Hildeburh
Ostharu Godgyfu
Leofsydu Merwynna
Other Lords and Ladies, Retainers, Villagers, Fishermen, Attendants, Cup-Bearers, Etc.

In the hall of Eadgar, king of England, a group of lords and ladies are entertained by the singing of Maccus. Eadgar is trying to arrange to marry Aelfrida, daughter of Ordgar, Thane of Devon, but affairs of state prevent him from visiting her himself; instead, he sends his henchman Aethelwold to find out if she is beautiful or not, despite Aethelwold's protest that, never having loved, all women are alike to him. On the way, he and Maccus are lost in a thick fog. Aethelwold lies down and sleeps as Marcus goes looking for food. Aelfrida enters; she hopes by means of magical incantations to avoid marrying the man her father has chosen for her. As she finishes her spell, a beam of moonlight falls on Aethelwold. She awakens him with a kiss, and he loves her at once. Aethelwold soon learns who she is, though; and while Aelfrida is fetching her serving-woman, he tries to flee, but Maccus prevents him. Aethelwold sends Maccus back to the king to tell him Aelfrida is not fair enough for him, and to seek blessing for his own marriage to her.

Some months later, Aelfrida, now married to Aethelwold, is disappointed that they are still living in her father's house, while her husband is frustrated that she is so busy with the household. They decide to leave that night for Flanders. Before they can leave, though, Maccus arrives to tell Aethelwold that Eadgar has arrived to visit them. Aethelwold confesses his treachery to his wife, who, although angry that she has lost her chance to be queen of England, agrees to make herself ugly to conceal Aethelwold's trick. The King arrives; as he greets Aethelwold, Aelfrida appears, having made herself as beautiful as she could. The king realizes Aethelwold's treachery and confronts him with it; his retainer, remorseful, stabs himself. The king orders that he be buried with all the honor due his rank.

Discography Search for recordings of The King's Henchman at Amazon.com

Deems Taylor: Arias from The King's Henchman (Lawrence Tibbett, Jan Peerce)


Souvenirs from American Opera

CD / IRCC 818 (1998)

Last update: January 1, 2009