The Birthday of the Infanta
Opera in 2 scenes

Dennis Farrell
Genre: Staged Vocal Works, Operas, Complete Vocal Score


Instrumentation Set Number 1:
  • 1 x Flute
  • 1 x Oboe
  • 1 x Clarinet
  • 1 x Bass clarinet
  • 1 x Bassoon
  • 2 x Percussion
  • 1 x Guitar
  • 1 x Harp
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Narrator/Actor
  • 2 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Bass
  • 1 x String orchestra
Instrumentation Set Number 2:
  • 1 x Piano
  • 1 x Narrator/Actor
  • 1 x Soprano
  • 2 x Mezzo Soprano
  • 1 x Tenor
  • 1 x Bass
Programme Note:
The Infanta is a latent victim of the genetic decline afflicting the Spanish House of Hapsburg during the middle 1600s. The Governess, upon whom the Infanta heavily depends, has been scheming for years to secure the throne both for the Infanta and for one of her relatives, Count Carlos. To lure back to court the one strong man capable of completing her designs, she installs the dwarfish son of Padre Jose, a widower turned Jesuit who is unaware that a child has survived his wife's death. The rest of the opera is a working out of the basic conflicts between the Padre's knowledge of the Hapsburg line's doom and the Governess's love-hate need for the incorruptible Padre. The pressures which the Infanta will soon be expected to bear as wife, queen and defender of the faith work together with her weak physical constitution and tendency to relive a traumatic witnessing of heretics being burned at the stake into a fabric checkered with sweetness and terror. Thus, the Birthday of the Infanta does not mark the beginning of the troubles but is the culminating trigger releasing them all at once.
The plot in this opera differs considerably from the Oscar Wilde tale of the same name. Wilde's Infanta (presumably inspired by the famous Velazquez painting?) is much younger, the dwarf but a casual visitor, and all other character relationships relatively vague and non-dynamic. Wilde's hall of mirrors is replaced by a reflecting pool. Characters' names have been freshly invented. Newly incorporated, but fairly authentic historically, are the notions of Church, State, marriageability and dynastic hereditary disease, not to mention the over-protective control of the Infanta.
In addition to Oscar Wilde, who provided the notion, the composer is grateful to inNOVAtions in MUSIC for putting forth the idea of a music theatre piece and for providing the orchestra for the performances, to Philip and Eleanor May for their early discussions and advice, to Malcom Ross for his comments on the libretto, to M.J.F. and J.W.B. for their encouragement, to the student understudies for their hard work and loyalty, and to the Department of Music for arranging the collaboration of so many talented people to realize this production.
--Dennis Farrell.


  • Call Number:
  • MV 7110 F245bi
  • Genre:
  • Staged Vocal Works, Operas, Complete Vocal Score
  • Date of Acquisition:
  • July 20, 2009
  • Type:
  • Print-music, Published by CMC
  • Physical Description:
  • 1 vocal/piano score (127 p.) ;
    127 Pages
    Height: 43 cm
    Width: 28 cm
  • Language Information
  • Language of libretto: English
  • Additional Information:
  • Vocal/piano score.
    Roles: Donna Olara (high mezzo), Don Pedro Jose (bass), Infanta (soprano), Gabriela (low mezzo), Dwarf (speaking role) and Count Carlos (tenor).
    Orchestration: flute, oboe, clarinet, bass clarinet, bassoon, piano, harp, 2 percussion, guitar and strings.
    Libretto and music by Dennis Farrell.
    Produced in collaboration with the Dalhousie University Department of Music, inNOVAtions in MUSIC, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, the Nova Scotia Department of Tourism and Culture, and the Canada Council, with special assistance from Scotia Chamber Ensembles.
    Overture -- Scene 1 -- Scene 2.
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