Works The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden Roger Doyle

The Love of Don Perlimplin and Belisa in the Garden

  • Roger Doyle
  • Year of composition: 1983-88
  • Duration: 67:00

In 1984 the music-theatre company Operating Theatre (co-founded by myself and actress Olwen Fouere) staged a production of this play by Lorca at the Project Theatre, Dublin. I was interested in this play for two main reasons: Its author described it in an interview in 1933 as ‘embedded in music like a chamber opera’. This quote interested me because Operating Theatre policy was to integrate music as an equal partner in the theatrical environment and not to have it ‘stuck on’ at the last minute, which so often happened. The second reason was that the main character Don Perlimplin was destroyed and made pathetic by an image of beauty, which I found very tragic. This is a suite, independant of the theatre production, made for CD.

The story is as follows:

In an eighteenth century setting the rich old man Don Perlimplin is captivated by the young Belisa singing an erotic love song on the balcony opposite his. Shy but goaded by his servant he asks for her hand in marriage. Her mother, sensing a financial opportunity, bosses her into accepting. Unable to consummate his marriage Perlimplin falls asleep on their wedding night. Belisa makes love to five men from five continents, one after the other, later that night. When he wakes the following morning he can’t rouse her from her sleep and sadly sings ‘Love, love that here lies wounded’. In the days that follow the pathetic Perlimplin, sensing that he is not loved, writes Belisa letters as though he were a young admirer and passes her window in a huge red cape covering his face to make her believe he is someone else. He arranges in one of these letters to secretly meet her in the garden late in the evening, In grotesque despair he dances and sings ‘Don Perlimplin has no Honour’. In the moonlit garden, upon the banks of the river, Belisa hears a serenade as she waits. A man appears in a red cape stumbling and wounded — a dagger stuck in his chest. Don Perlimplin, covering his face, says that he has been killed by Don Perlimplin because he knew that Belisa was loved by a young man who loved her body as he couldn’t. Belisa then recognises her husband but, confused, asks where the young man is. Perlimplin dies in her arms.

The melodies of the two songs sung by Elena Lopez, who played Belisa in the 1984 production, are derived from old Spanish folk tunes.

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