1981 – Good King Wenceslas – ABOUT

Good King Wenceslas

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1981

Synopsis: Based on the radio play “When the snow lay round about” by James Forsyth (1978). A dramatic Christmas story about Wenceslas, King of Bohemia, and his faithful servant Samo who risks his own life to try to save his master from Wenceslas’ jealous brother

Composer Timothy Kraemer
Librettist Timothy Kraemer
Music Director Nicholas Kraemer
Soloists Wenceslas, Samo, Jester, Boleslav, Henry the Fowler, Yani, Speaker
Groups Guards, Germans and Fowler’s Growlers, Henchwomen, Bohemians, Forester Choristers, Citizens, Monks
Orchestra 2 Violins, Viola, Cello, Trumpet, Horn, Trombone, Alto Sax, Piano, Drums, 2 Percussion, Bass Guitar, Guitar

Notes on Production: A king’s brother attempts to poison him and a page boy takes the poison in the king’s place: this is a story of castle intrigue in medieval Bohemia only very loosely connected with the familiar Christmas carol. The dark undertones of jealousy and murder give this Christmas-themed tale a real bite.

Musically it is easy on the ear, easily learned with jazzy rhythms and occasionally a “big band” style sound.

Sets are required which suggest a castle interior, a snowy forest and a chapel. Appropriate for 9-18 age range but technically graspable by singers at the younger end of the age range.

Running time 51 minutes.


King Wenceslas of Bohemia greets Henry the Fowler, King of the Germans, who offers to protect him from the barbarians. Wenceslas’ brother, Boleslav, disagrees with this and tries to kill Wenceslas to become king himself. He forces Samo the page to offer his master Wenceslas a poisoned drink, which at the last moment Samo drinks himself. Wenceslas saves Samo by ordering the guards to make him sick. Boleslav tries to revenge himself on Samo when he finds him hiding in a pantomime horse, but Yani, Samo’s uncle, arrests Boleslav and he is banished by the king.

On St. Stephen’s day Boleslav dresses up as a poor man and lures Wenceslas from the castle into the forest. Samo thinks the man is Uncle Yani on recognising the cloak. They approach the forest chapel where midnight mass is starting. Yani arrives and warns that Wenceslas and Samo are following Boleslav who is setting a trap for the king in the chapel. Wenceslas sends Samo away and goes to meet his fate in the chapel, choosing death to prolong peace in Bohemia.