1983 Music

The king of the other country


Chamber opera in 2 acts for soprano, baritone, 6 singers in minor roles accompanied by chamber orchestra

Libretto by Fleur Adcock

The king of the other country was written for the students of the Sydney Conservatorium Opera School and first performed by them with Jane Manning (soprano), Geoffrey Chard (baritone) and the Flederman Ensemble conducted by Myer Fredman.

About the work

Somewhere in Britain, Isabel is sitting in the garden of her isolated cottage on a long, hot summer evening, singing a lullaby to her daughter. Her husband comes and admonishes her. It is dangerous to sit out alone at night. A year ago he had met this strange man, who, it’s said, might be the king of the other country.

Isabel considers this nonsense, but her mother supports her husband. Isabel asks her sister to sit in the garden with her, but, tiring of her chatter, sends her back inside. Alone in the garden, singing to her baby in her cradle, she is approached by a distinguished man and his gentleman attendant, who, after some conversation, reveal their true identities. ‘I am the king of the other country, and you are coming to be my bride.’ The king sweeps her off her feet and abducts her to the other country.

After a night spent in lovemaking in the other country, Isabel asks the king if she can return to visit her daughter. The king agrees, but she must wear a golden cloak to keep her safe. After she returns home, she eventually comes to realise that it is not one night that has passed, but many years …


The 2 major roles for soprano and baritone were written for professional singers. The minor roles are for 2 tenors, 4 sopranos and 2 mezzo-sopranos. Singers in minor roles also double as chorus, and some of the solo parts can be doubled.


This work is scored for flute (doubling piccolo), clarinet in B flat, clarinet in E flat, bass clarinet, trombone, piano/celesta/harpsichord, piano/chamber organ, harp, timpani, percussion (3 players) and strings.


Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

The king of the other country — SOUNZ

These isles your dream

Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano, viola and piano

Text by Kathleen Raine

These isles your dream was commissioned, with assistance from Northern Arts, and premiered by mezzo-soprano Elizabeth Lamb in 1983 in Carlisle, United Kingdom.

About the work

These isles your dream is a series of very short poems set as a single movement.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the full score from SOUNZ.

These isles your dream — SOUNZ

An RNZ Concert recording from 1993 is available online.

These isles your dream — audio

Out of this nettle, danger

Voice and instrumental ensemble

For mezzo-soprano, flute, clarinet, cello, keyboard and percussion

Text by Fleur Adcock, based on Katherine Mansfield’s writings from the last 3 years of her life

The first performance was given by Anthea Moller (mezzo) with the Australian Chamber Players conducted by Graham Hair.

About this work

The text  of Out of this nettle, danger was commissioned by the Literature Board of the New Zealand Department of Internal Affairs and the music received a First Use fee from the Music Board of the Australia Council.

It is based on the letters, diaries and other writings of Katherine Mansfield. All the excerpts come from the winter of 1919–20, 3 years before her death in 1923. She was at the time 23 years old, living by the northern Mediterranean coast, as it was essential for her health that she avoided the English winters. This separated her from her husband, John Middleton Murry, who had to work in London to earn enough to keep them both.

The writings express the exaggerations of emotion engendered by tuberculosis, and trace various events of the winter – the visit by her wealthy father, bringing cigarettes and daisies but no money at a time of financial crisis; the dark days of her sojourn at Ospedaletti with her companion who, like her husband, was frequently the recipient of hatred and bitterness; happier times at Menton; and a dream that she had.

The title comes from one of her favourite quotations. ‘Out of this nettle, danger, we pluck this flower, safety’, spoken by Shakespeare’s Hotspur in Henry IV Part 1 and chosen by her for her epitaph.

Score and recording

Buy or borrow the score from SOUNZ.

Out of this nettle, danger — SOUNZ

RNZ Concert recorded this work in 1987.

Out of this nettle, danger — audio


Out of this Nettle, Danger is intimate, acute, fleet, with a fascinating sensitivity to the deep implications of the text. There is a big range of percussion instruments, used with the greatest economy and power of suggestion so that no sound or thematic fragment is perfunctory, each has a voluptuous, expressive, original shape. The piece moves forward in small episodes, held together partly by text, partly by the sheer consistent quality of the imagination.’

— Meredith Oakes, The Independent