The Bear (opera)

The Bear (opera)

"The Bear" is the second of the two operas by William Walton, described in publication as an "Extravaganza in One Act". The libretto was by Paul Dehn, based on a play by Anton Chekhov.


The libretto by Paul Dehn was based on a play by Anton Chekhov which has had various translations, including titles such as "The Bear" and "The Boor".

Walton composed the opera on commission from the Koussevitzsky Foundation, and dedicated the opera "to the memory of Serge and Natalie Koussevitzky".

"The Bear" was first performed at the Jubilee Hall, Aldeburgh on 3 June 1967.


The setting is the drawing room of Yelina Ivanovna Popova’s country house, around 1888. Popova is a widow, remaining faithful to the memory of her late husband, Popov. Her servant, Luka, remarks upon her affected sorrow. Smirnov, one of Popov's creditors, appears. During the course of the story, it becomes clear that Popov was promiscuous and unfaithful to his wife. Smirnov and Popova begin to quarrel, to the point where both aim loaded pistols at each other. However, neither can fire, as they have fallen in love. As the opera ends, Luka looks on in disbelief at the new lovers.

Cast and Instrumentation

In contrast with Walton's previous opera "Troilus and Cressida", which used a large cast, full orchestra and chorus, "The Bear" is deliberately minimal in its vocal and instrumental forces. The opera uses 3 singers and a chamber orchestra.


* Yelina Ivanovna Popova, "a widow" (mezzo-soprano)
* Grigory Stephanovich Smirnov, "a creditor" (baritone)
* Luka, "Popova's servant" (bass)
* Two men (brief speaking roles)


* Flute (doubling piccolo)
* Oboe (doubling english horn)
* Clarinet (doubling bass clarinet)
* BassoonBrass
* French horn
* Trumpet
* TrombonePercussion (Timpani, side drum, tenor drum, bass drum, cassa chiara, triangle, tambourine, cymbals, suspended cymbal, gong, jingles, 3 blocks, wood block, whip, rattle, xylophone, vibraphone, tubular bells in F-sharp and C, crotales, bongos)

* Piano

* String quintet (first violin, second violin, viola, cello, double bass; parts may be doubled [Peter Evans, Review of "Walton, William, "The Bear". Score." "Music & Letters", 60(1), 117 (1979).] )
* Harp


* EMI Classics: Monica Sinclair, John Shaw, Norman Lumsden; English Chamber Orchestra; James Lockhart, conductor
* Chandos ABR 1052: Daphne Harris, Gregory Yurisich, Noël Mangin; Melbourne Symphony Orchestra; Vanco Cavdarski, conductor (analogue recording) [Robert Anderson, Review of Chandos recording of "The Bear". "The Musical Times", 123(1676), 699 (1982).]
* Chandos: Della Jones, Alan Opie, John Shirley-Quirk; Northern Sinfonia; Richard Hickox, conductor (digital recording)



*"Viking Opera Guide" ed. Holden (Viking, 1993)

External links

* [ Page from on "The Bear"]
* [ Oxford University Press "Programme Notes"]

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