1997 – Eloise – ABOUT


Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1997 , published by Boosey and Hawkes. Also performed by other opera companies; please see its entry on the Revivals page.

Synopsis: Based on the Hans Christian Andersen story of The Wild Swans, telling the story of Eloise, a princess whose seven missing brothers have been turned into wild ducks by a troll witch. She sets out to rescue the princes, learning that the spell will be broken if she can weave seven thistledown shirts for them to wear before the next full moon. As she nears the end of her task the witch and her cronies attempt to intervene but, with the aid of a magic spoon, Eloise summons help and the witch is defeated.

Composer Karl Jenkins
Librettist Carol Barratt
Music Director Dominic McGonigal
Soloists Nurse, Queen, King, Volhek, Young Eloise, Grown-Up Eloise, 1st Suitor, 2nd Suitor, 3rd Suitor
Groups Young Princes, Court, Drogmires, Grown-Up Princes, Thistledown Spinners
Orchestra Piano, Violin 1, Violin 2, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Clarinet, Horn, Trumpet, Percussion

Notes on Production: A fairy tale with a clear narrative and traditional elements that will appeal to all ages. Eloise has been widely revived. Musically Eloise is closer to the musical comedy genre than the operatic, with some dialogue. There is a moderate amount of part-singing and the piece is rhythmically very straightforward, easily grasped by younger singers. The character list offers good scope for imaginative characterisation within the groups.

One set will suffice if props are used skilfully to indicate palace/forest. Cast size: originally over 70 but there is scope for doubling. Eloise has been staged successfully with a smaller cast of less than 40 children.

Running Time 70 minutes

Available from Boosey and Hawkes.



Setting: A Palace, sometime, somewhere


1. Spit ’n’ Polish • Maids, Nurse, Queen

The maids are cleaning the palace in preparation for the christening of the King and Queen’s new baby daughter. To mark the birth, the Queen presents her daughter and each of her seven sons with a silver spoon with magic powers to protect them.

2. Welcome • To Our King

Maids, Nurse, Queen, King, Courtiers, Princes

The King arrives with his retinue and christens the baby ‘Eloise’.

3. Spoons • Maids, Nurse, Queen, King, Courtiers, Princes

The Royal Household celebrates the gift of the magic spoons.

4. Here I Am • Volhek, Drogmires

The witch Volhek arrives with her band of cronies, the Drogmires.

They remind the Queen of the bargain she made with Volhek a long time ago – that if she could have a baby girl, she would give Volhek all her sons.The Princes struggle when the Drogmires try to lead them away.In anger, Volhek turns them into wild ducks.

5. Flight Theme • Instrumental


Years later


6. And So The Tale Continues • Nurse

Eloise is now a little girl. The Queen dotes on her, but becomes very unhappy whenever she thinks of her lost sons. As a teenager Eloise realises something is wrong.

7. Trio • Nurse Queen, Eloise, Head Maids

The Queen feels guilty about her bargain with Volhek.Her sadness about her sons casts gloom over the whole place. Eloise knows something is being kept from her and insists on knowing the secret.The nurse reveals the truth.

8. The Quest Song • Eloise, King, Queen, Courtiers, Maids

Eloise decides to search for her brothers and says farewell to her family and household.


Setting: Far beyond the palace walls


9. We Will Spy • Drogmires

The Drogmires spy on Eloise and laugh about the fate of her brother.

10. Never Ending • Princes, Eloise

The seven Princes are now grown up.As usual, they have spent the day as ducks.They complain about their life — flying each day and only becoming Princes again at night.They long for someone to help them to break Volhek’s spell by making each of them a shirt of thistledown. Eloise finds her brothers and promises to help.

11. Not So Fast • Volhek, Drogmires

Volhek attempts to stop Eloise by putting a spell on her: she strikes her dumb – she cannot talk or laugh or cry.

12. The Spinning Song • Thistledown Spinners From the depths of the forest, the

Thistledown Spinners emerge.They discover Eloise and offer to help spin the seven shirts.They encourage Eloise to use her magic spoon to conjure up a Prince Charming.

13. Love ‘Duet’ • Suitors, Spinners, First Vamp, Strops

Three suitors suddenly appear to woo Eloise.She decides to enlist their help in collecting thistledown.

14. Out Of Hand • Drogmires

The Drogmires moan about Eloise having found so many helpers to pick thistledown and spin shirts.They panic and summon Volhek.

15. If Eloise • Volhek, Drogmires

Volhek and the Drogmires dissuade the suitors from helping Eloise by saying that, if Eloise loved them she would express her love in words, tears of joy and laughter (knowing full well she can’t because of Volhek’s spell).

16. The Moon Is Nearly Up • Volhek, Drogmires

Having got rid of the suitors, Volhek is so confident that Eloise will not have enough thistledown to complete seven shirts before the moon is up, that she and the Drogmires start celebrating their victory. As the Drogmires revel, the Spinners manage to finish the final shirts just before the moon rises. Volhek and the Drogmires are vanquished.

17. All Our Love For You • King, Courtiers, Maids, Spinners, Queen, Nurse

The Royal Household arrives, delighted to be reunited with Eloise again and eager for news of her brother.

18. Ducks To Princes • Princes, Eloise

The Princes arrive wearing their thistledown shirts and delight at their freedom.

19. Maybe Then In Time • Queen, Nurse, Eloise, Third Suitor, Spinners, First Vamp, Strops

The Queen begs the Princes to forgive her. Everyone is happy except Eloise. She misses the third suitor. She wishes for him to come back using her magic spoon. He does! And promises to stay with Eloise for ever.

20. Spoons • Royal Household, Third Suitor, Spinners

The entire Court and the Spinners join the Royal Family in rejoicing. They all praise the power of the spoons.