Opera libretto based on the relationship of Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.
Lyrics, text, and opera libretto by Nancy Jean Somerville
The opera is entirely set in one well-appointed hotel suite
Act 1: Le Scandale
Hollywood’s greatest love story. Rome, 1962--Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton begin their wild and undeniable extramarital affair on the set of the movie “Cleopatra”. “Le Scandale” dominates headlines, to the fascination of all and the censure of many.
The love affair is brief. Pressure to stop seeing each other comes from family, studio executives, even the Vatican and the US Congress. Elizabeth’s heart knows no turning back. She and husband Eddie Fisher split. Richard, however, is more circumspect. No stranger to love affairs, he has never been one to consider leaving his family, and suffers greatly at the thought of abandoning them. Elizabeth cannot bear to see his anguish and agrees they must separate. Eventually her mother takes pity on her daughter's unhappiness and arranges a meeting between Elizabeth and Richard. The two admit their love, face their fate, and agree to move the mountains necessary to be together.
Act 2: Marriage, and Then Some
Together, complete, Elizabeth and Richard revel in sanctifying this marriage that has risen out of the ashes of scandal and betrayal. Their movies have made them fabulously wealthy and their lives define all we know as glamorous. But alcohol is a third partner in this marriage, and excess has become a way of life. Eventually headlines of "Liz 'n Dick", are replaced with stories of the "Battling Burtons". Thirteen years after the adventure began, they divorce…only to briefly remarry several months later. Richard dies suddenly at the age of 58.
Elizabeth turns the force of her passion to lead the fight against AIDs, at last finding a justification for her celebrity. Distraction becomes a remedy for Elizabeth, yet somehow not a cure. The air of void lingers, as she reveals in a final interview.
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Elizabeth Taylor; soprano (30 years old, initially)
Richard Burton; tenor (35 years old, initially)
Ifor Burton, Richard’s brother; bass (older than Richard)
Sara Taylor, Elizabeth’s mother; mezzo (late 50’s or early 60’s)
Movie Director; baritone (30’s, 40’s or 50’s)
Eddie Fisher; tenor (mid-30’s)
Michael Snow (possible double with Eddie Fisher role); tenor (mid-30’s, initially)
trio of Paparazzo (Italian, ‘youngish’ –20’s or early 30’s)
Elizabeth’s Attendants (age not significant)
Single-scene/doubling roles: party guests, Minister, Ambulance technician, Reporter, Businessman, Fiancé