Sir John in Love

A member of the Darwin and Wedgewood families, Vaughan Williams had independent means, which meant he could afford to follow his artistic interests. He loved opera and theater and composed far more incidental music and ballets than people usually give him credit for. He wrote five operas: Hugh the Drover, The Poisoned Kiss, Sir John in Love, Riders to the Sea, and The Pilgrim’s Progress. None of them have held the stage. Until the advent of Britten’s Peter Grimes, no British opera did, and the native tradition was distinctly spotty. Vaughan Williams’s most distinguished predecessors were Sullivan (the operettas) and Holst (Savitri). VW began working on Poisoned Kiss, Sir John, and Riders at roughly the same time, but the three works couldn’t differ more. Poisoned Kiss, a comic operetta on the same idea as Hawthorne’s “Rappaccini’s Daughter.” Sir John is the most conventional of VW’s operas. The composer himself capably adapted Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor and added Elizabethan lyrics (and a French folk song) for arias from Shakespeare, Ben Johnson, Campion, and others. He also sprinkled in some English folk tunes (which occupy a grand total of 15 minutes of the score), some for dramatic point (like “John, come kiss me now” and “Greensleeves”), some just because that’s what he wanted at that moment. He wrote the opera with the knowledge that it would probably sink without a trace, but the tunes were just too good to lose. He recycled some of the numbers as the cantata In Windsor Forest and allowed an arrangement for strings, flute, and harp by R. Greaves, the Fantasia on “Greensleeves”, which became a VW hit.


  • Composer: Ralph Vaughan-Williams
  • Title: Sir John in Love
  • Cast:

    Adrian Thompson tenor (solo parts) - Shallow
    Stephan Loges baritone (ensemble parts) - Shallow
    Stephen Varcoe bass - Sir Hugh Evans
    Daniel Norman tenor - Slender
    Henry Moss baritone - Peter Simple
    Roderick Williams baritone - Page
    Donald Maxwell baritone - Sir John Falstaff
    John Bowen tenor - Bardolph
    Richard Lloyd-Morgan bass - Nym
    Brian Bannatyne-Scott baritone - Pistol
    Susan Gritton soprano - Anne Page
    Laura Claycomb soprano - Mrs Page
    Sarah Connolly mezzo-soprano - Mrs Ford
    Mark Padmore tenor- Fenton
    Adrian Thompson tenor - Dr Caius
    Mark Richardson bass - Rugby
    Anne-Marie Owens mezzo-soprano - Mrs Quickly
    Stephan Loges baritone - The Host of the 'Garter Inn'
    Matthew Best bass - Ford
    Sinfonia Chorus
    Northern Sinfonia
    Richard Hickox, conductor

  • Additional information:

    Ralph Vaughan Williams (1872-1958)
    Sir John in Love    136:39
    An opera in four acts
    The libretto based on Shakespeare's 'The Merry Wives of Windsor'
    Act I
    1        Orchestral introduction -    6:48
    Shallow, Sir Hugh Evans: 'What hoa, what hoa!'
    2        Anne Page: 'Ahem'    1:46
    3        Anne Page: 'This is my father's choice'    8:03
    4        Page: 'How now, what does Master Fenton here?'    1:02
    5        Dr Caius: 'Vere is dat knave Rugby?'    6:52
    6        Episode    2:22
    7        Bardolph, Nym, Pistol: 'How now, mine Host of the Garter'    2:49
    8        Sir John Falstaff: 'I spy entertainment in her . . .'    3:37
    9        Pistol: 'Wilt thou revenge . . .?'    2:20
    10        Ford: 'Love my wife? I will be patient'    3:33
    Act II
    11        Orchestral introduction -    6:25
    Scene 1
    Mrs Page: ' 'Thine own true knight' '
    12        Mrs Qucikly: 'Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more'    3:00
    Scene 2
    13        Sir John Falstaff: 'Bardolph! Bardolph, I say!'    5:28
    14        Sir John Falstaff: 'Go thy ways, go thy ways, old Jack!'    5:10
    15        Ford: 'Sir, my name is Brook'    5:31
    16        Ford: 'Ha, is this a vision?'    3:12
    Act III
    Scene 1: Interlude
    1        Orchestral introduction -    5:41
    Fenton: 'Yet hear me speak'
    2        Chorus of Young Women: 'Fair and fair and twice so fair'    2:40
    3        Anne Page: 'But listen, good mine Host'    2:25
    Scene 2
    4        Orchestral introduction -    3:49
    Sir Hugh Evans: ' 'When as we sat in Papylon' '
    5        Peter Simple: 'Yonder he's coming'    2:29
    6        Page: 'Come, Master Ford'    1:46
    7        Orchestral introduction -    2:23
    Scene 3
    Mrs Ford: 'What, John! What, Robert!'
    8        Mrs Ford: 'Alas, my love, you do me wrong'    2:48
    9        Mrs Quickly: 'Mistress Ford!'    2:07
    10        Ford, Chorus of Men: 'Ah!'    4:23
    Act IV
    11        Orchestral introduction -    3:35
    Scene 1
    Ford: 'Pardon me, wife'
    12        Mrs Page: 'There is an old tale that goes Herne the hunter'    6:37
    13        (Interlude)    2:03
    Scene 2
    14        Orchestral introduction -    1:58
    15        Sir John Falstaff: 'The Windsor bell hath struck twelve'    2:47
    16        Mrs Ford: 'Ah' -    3:29
    Sir John Falstaff: 'Who comes here?'
    17        Mrs Qucikly: 'But till 'tis one o'clock'    0:57
    18        Dance of the Fairies    1:57
    19        Sir Hugh Evans: 'But stay! I smell a man of middle earth'    2:09
    20        Page: 'Nay, do not fly'    4:24
    21        Mrs Page: 'My heart misgives me'    2:58
    22        Sir John Falstaff: 'Stand not amazed'    5:04
    Recorded in:
    Jubilee Hall, Newcastle
    7-10 December 2000
    Brian Couzens
    Sound Engineer(s)
    Ralph Couzens
    Christopher Brooke (Assistant)
    James Atkins (Assistant)

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