1972 – The Pied Piper – ABOUT

The Pied Piper

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1972. Also performed by other opera companies; please see its entry on the Revivals page.

Synopsis: Opera set in the town square of Hamelin and based on the well-known German legend.

Composer Christopher Bowers Broadbent
Librettist Jeremy Hornsby
Music Director Nicholas Kraemer
Soloists Tenor, 9 Child Soloists
Groups Rats, Children and Townsfolk
Orchestra Flute, Oboe, B-Flat Clarinet, Bassoon, Trombone, Piano, Violins (2), Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Percussion (two or more players), Tubular Bells or Hand Bells


Hamelin is a sleepy, prosperous, pretty little town in mediaeval Germany. Its people are complacent…even smug.

A nomad tribe of rats decide to make their home in its rich granaries and well-stocked larders. They have heard by word of rat-mouth that the townsfolk are too self-contented to offer resistance.

But another wanderer also decides to visit Hamelin…the Pied Piper. He is a strange being, dressed in curious clothes. No-one even knows where he has come from, except that it is the land where wishes are made.

Driven to distraction by the invasion of rats, the citizens of Hamelin round on their ineffectual, pompous mayor, whom previously they have applauded.  As he tries to decide what to do, the Pied Piper appears. He offers to rid Hamelin of the rats for a fee of one thousand guilders. After initial ridicule, the townsfolk decide to accept the offer.

The Pied Piper lives up to his word. But when he returns for his money, the citizens, feeling secure again, go back on the deal. They laugh at his threat of retaliation, and troop off to church to sing their self-righteous psalms.

Now the strange man plays his pipe again, as he did to lure the rats into the river, drowning them. But this time it is the children who emerge to follow him, dancing and happy at the dreams conjured by his tune.

He leads them to the mysterious mountain which overlooks Hamelin. As they approach, the rocks open up and the children disappear after the Pied Piper into a magical dream world. The only one left is a crippled boy, who could not keep up with the others. The mountain has shut again before he can reach it.

He returns to Hamelin to find that its people still don’t understand that what has happened is their own fault.

Reviews and Feedback: Reviewed in The Guardian.