The Parlour is the only opera by the Welsh composer Grace Williams; a comic opera in one act, it is based on a short story by Guy de Maupassant.[1] Although written in 1961, it was not performed in public until 1966.[2]

The Parlour
Comic opera by Grace Williams
Based on"En famille", short story by Guy de Maupassant
5 May 1966 (1966-05-05)

Maupassant's "En famille" [fr] (1881)[3] deals with the Caravan family and the events that occur following the presumed death of Mr Caravan's 90-year-old mother, who is in fact alive. Grace Williams transferred the location to a Victorian seaside resort. In adapting the short story as an opera, Williams displays "considerable gifts of staging".[4] She was hindered in her early plans to write an opera by the fact that Wales had no opera house of its own and no dedicated orchestra (the Welsh National Opera Company was formed in 1946). She also doubted whether Welsh audiences would appreciate it.[5]

The première, on 5 May 1966, took place at the New Theatre, Cardiff, where the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra was conducted by Bryan Balkwill. The cast included Edith Coates and Edward Byles in leading roles, Noreen Berry, John Gibbs, Anne Pashley and Janet Hughes. It was produced by John Moody, and Elizabeth Friendship's set design received praise from reviewers. However, the reviewer in Opera magazine dismissed the music as "feeble in content, too long, and mis-timed in its relation to the dramatic action".[6] The BBC, broadcasting a recording made at the Odeon Theatre, Llandudno, in November of the same year, described the première as "highly successful", and said that the opera, despite being Williams' first, displays a "confident professionalism and the theatrical awareness".[7]


  1. ^ "Grace Williams (1906–77)". Discover Welsh Music. Archived from the original on 24 April 2016. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  2. ^ Wright, David C F (1989). "Grace Williams" (PDF). Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  3. ^ Grout, Donald; Williams, Hermine Weigel (2003). A Short History of Opera. Columbia University Press. p. 565. ISBN 9780231507721.
  4. ^ Griffiths, Rhidian. "Grace Williams". Dictionary of Welsh Biography. National Library of Wales. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  5. ^ Cotterill, Graham (2012). Music in the Blood & Poetry in the Soul? National identity in the life and music of Grace Williams (PDF). University of Wales, Bangor. pp. 112–114.
  6. ^ J., A. (June 1966). "Cardiff: The Parlour". Opera. p. 86. Retrieved 16 April 2016.
  7. ^ Loveland, Kenneth (3 November 1966). "Welsh National Opera Company: The Parlour". Radio Times. p. 18. Retrieved 16 April 2016.