This page is dedicated to the Warsaw, Poland opera production of October 2014
See this Page for the Bregenz, Austria opera production of July 2013

See this page for the upcoming opera production at the Welsh National Opera in 2016

Official Opera Poster
(Click image for full size)

Opera Program
(Click image for PDF file)

Click Images or Click Here for a YouTube Slide Show (music is by Andrzej Czajkowski from String Quartet No. 2)
(Photos: Krzysztof Bielinski)

Article by Maciej Prolinski
World Market magazine

Typical Manuscript Pages

Working on the libretto

Letters between André and John O'Brien

Opera Correspondence

Postcard to Eve Harrison (March 23, 1982)

André writes in part: "I am quite well, but not happy: the ENO have turned down the Merchant! They didn't even wait to hear the crucial trial scene. I had the news 2 weeks ago and felt devastated. But need I say that my faith in the work is entirely unaffected?

Conductor's Score

David A. Ferré (left) and
John O'Brien (opera librettist)
(July 2013)

"Merchant of Venice" Synopsi


Opera Performances at the Warsaw Wielki Theatre (October 2014)
The dates of performances of The Merchant of Venice (Kupiec Wenecki in Polish) at the Warsaw (Poland) Wielki Theatre took place on October 24, 26, 28, and October 30. Click Here for the cast of the opera (PDF file in Polish); Click Here for a cast poster (PDF file in Polish).

Lester Lynch as Shylock (Photo: Krzysztof Bielinski)

Programs related to The Merchant of Venice (Warsaw, Poland - October 2014)
The following table lists known video and radio programs centric to The Merchant of Venice (Kupiec Wenecki). This table will be updated as other programs become available.

To View
Trailer posted by Opera Narodowa YouTube 30 seconds long Click Here
Promo posted by Opera Narodowa YouTube 15 seconds long (pl) Click Here
Grand Theatre Foyer Program Veedo 100 seconds long (pl) Click Here
Keith Warner Interview Part 1 Veedo 51 seconds long (en) Click Here
Keith Warner Interview Part 2 Veedo 65 seconds long (en) Click Here
Keith Warner Interview Part 3 Veedo 49 seconds long (en) Click Here
TVN Promo of the opera YouTube 60 seconds long (pl) Click Here
Polish Radio Program 1 mp3 file 8 minutes long (pl) Click Here
Polish Radio Program 2 mp3 file 27 minutes long (pl) Click Here
Polish Radio Program 3 mp3 file 13 minutes long (pl) Click Here

Opera Reviews and Articles
Below is a sampling of reviews and comments generated by the opera performances. Virtually all of these listings are in Polish.

Ruch Muzyczny - December 12, 2014 (pl) Click Here
New York Times - November 17, 2014 (en) Click Here
Hanna Milewska for Hi Fi i Muzyka - November 15, 2014 (pl) Click Here
e-gazeta teatralna Blog - November 2, 2014 (pl) Click Here
Ewa Wojciechowska Blog - October 29, 2014 (pl) Click Here
Opera czyli boski idiotyzm - October 29, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 28, 2014 (ru) Click Here Warszawa website - October 27, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 27, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 26, 2014 (pl) Click Here
Polityka, Doroty Szwarcman Blog - October 25, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 25, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 25, 2014 (pl) Click Here website - October 24, 2014 (pl) Click Here Warszawa website - October 24, 2014 (pl) Click Here Warszawa website - October 23, 2014 (pl) Click Here Portal Historyczny webpage - October 23, 2014 (pl) Click Here Warszawa - September 3, 2014 (pl) Click Here
The Arts in Europe (New York Times) - September 3, 2014 (en) Click Here

Lionel Friend / Research of Opera Libretto Correspondence (March 2017)
Conductor Lionel Friend, who was the music director/conductor for the opera performances in Warsaw, collected all the known letters between André Tchaikowsky and librettist John O'Brien and has made this valuable research available as a PDf file (Click Here). He wishes to give special thanks to Eve Harrison, Dr. Anastasia Belina-Johnson, John O'Brien (and John's friend, David Slater), Magdalena Borowiec at the University of Warsaw Library (Andrzej Czajkowski Archive), and webmaster David Ferré, who assembled the pdf file.

Lionel Friend Blog (May 2014)
Conductor Lionel Friend, who is the music director/conductor for the opera performances in Warsaw, mentions the opera on his May 2014 blog. Click Here for the original and complete blog (pdf file). Click image below for larger version.

Celebration Concert featuring André Tchaikowsky compositions
Wielki Theatre just announced: "Premiere Prelude / Concerts of Composers of Season 2014/2015," with works by Andrzej Czajkowski. The concert will take place at Teatr Wielki on Thursday, October 23, 2014 at 8 pm (20 hr). For details, Click Here (English) or Click Here (Polish). This concert includes:

Sonata for Clarinet and Piano

Julian Paprocki - clarinet
Maciej Grzybowski - piano

Inventions for Piano

Maciej Grzybowski - piano

Seven Sonnets of Shakespeare

Urszula Kryger - mezzo-soprano
Maciej Grzybowski - piano

Opera Cast for the Warsaw, Poland Production (October 2014)
The following is a summary of the cast for the Warsaw, Poland production of The Merchant of Venice.
As more information becomes available, it will be added to this webpage.

Music Director/Conductor
Lionel Friend (website)

Stage Director
Keith Warner (website)

Ashley Martin-Davis (website)

Davy Cunningham (website)

Chorus of Teatr Wielki - Polish
National Opera (website)

Orchestra of Teatr Wielki - Polish
National Opera (website)

Dariusz Machej (website)
Duke of Venice (Bass)

Christopher Robson (website)
Antonio (Countertenor)

Charles Workman (website)
Bassanio (Tenor)

Adrian Clarke
Salerio (Bass-Baritone)

Rafal Pawnuk
Solanio (Bass-Baritone)

Philip Smith
Gratiano (Bass-Baritone)

Jason Bridges (website)
Lorenzo (Tenor)

Lester Lynch (website)
Shylock (Baritone)

Marisol Montalvo (website)
Jessica (Soprano)

Sarah Castle
Portia (Mezzosoprano)

Verena Gunz
Nerissa (Mezzosoprano)

Katarzyna Trylnik (website)
A boy (Soprano)

Juliusz M. Kubiak (website)
Duke of Arragon/Freud

Greg Lockett (website)
Duke of Morocco

Opera Academy (website)
Aragon and Morocco

Members of the Chorus
People of Venice

Full Opera Scores from publisher Josef Weinberger
Publisher Josef Weinberger may be contacted for those interested in detailed study of the opera, available as full scores in four volumes.

This work is published by Josef Weinberger and appears in their catalog of André Tchaikowsky published works. Click Here for a PDF copy of the André Tchaikowsky Josef Weinberger catalog.

Opera Libretto
The opera libretto written by John O'Brien provided the overall pattern of how the opera would be presented but André made changes such that a copy of the libretto by O'Brien does not allow you to simply follow along when viewing the opera. Click Here to see John O'Brien's original libretto (pdf file). An updated "follow along" libretto is in preparation.

"A Study in Contrast"
The July 10, 1992 program about André Tchaikowsky, "A Study in Contrast," included this segment about the opera. Use the player below or select this mp3 link: contrast_opera.mp3. For the entire program, A Study in Contrast, see the Miscellaneous link above. Voices for the following: John Schofield, Susan Bradshaw, David Owen Norris, Terry Harrison.

There is a demonstration recording of the opera "Epilogue" that was paid for by funds given to André while he was ill, but never used. The demonstration recording features Terry Edwards and the London Voices, and pianist Susan Bradshaw, who also did the opera piano reduction:

"The Merchant of Venice" Epilogue / opera_epilogue_demo.mp3

From the biography The Other Tchaikowsky
André labored for 24 years on his opera "The Merchant of Venice." Except for a few pages of orchestration, the work was complete at his death. It was completed and published, in both full score and piano reduction, using the memorial fund established by his friends and literary executors.

The opera is written in three acts and Epilogue, based on the Shakespeare play. The forces for the 2-1/2 hour opera are:

    Jessica - High Soprano
    Portia - Mezzo- Dramatic Soprano
    Nerissa - Mezzo-Soprano
    Antonio - Counter-Tenor
    Bassanio - Tenor
    Lorenzo - Lyric Tenor
    Shylock - Baritone
    Salerio - Baritone
    Solanio - Bass
    Gratiano - Bass
    Duke of Venice - Baritone

    Augmented Full Orchestra

Stage Band:
    Two Recorders
    Oboe d’Amore
    Oboe da Cacce
    Two Bassoons

The two musicians most closely familiar with the opera, Susan Bradshaw and Hans Keller, praised this major composition of André's artistic maturity. Susan Bradshaw wrote to Eve Harrison on July 30, 1984:

Dear Eve,

Having just finished making the vocal score of André Tchaikowsky's opera, "The Merchant of Venice," I thought I must write and tell you what an outstanding work I feel it to be, particularly in the way it manages to communicate all the passionate involvement that went into its composition. There is a wealth of striking detail here, both musical and dramatic (in the glittering orchestration as well as on stage) and the vocal lines, though not always easy, are intensely singable throughout. I am confident that the work will one day be given the full stage production it undoubtedly deserves as a significant contribution to the modern operatic repertoire (and one with a good chance of appealing to the opera-going public); meanwhile, wouldn't it be wonderful if we could manage to arrange a concert performance, to whet the appetite, so to speak

With Best Wishes,
Susan Bradshaw

Hans Keller wrote his opinion of the opera, also in July 1984:

I am intimately acquainted with André Tchaikowsky's opera, "The Merchant of Venice," and have no hesitation in describing it as an outstanding work, both musically and theatrically. For those of us who knew André Tchaikowsky's previous compositions, the considerable musical substance and weight of the work did not come as a surprise; but that a composer, however inventive, should write his first opera as if he had developed his sense for the theatre over many years is surely a surprising fact which one could almost honour with the adjective "sensational."

There are many successful operas which aren't half as stage-worthy as is Tchaikowsky's opera; what is even more striking is that every crucial dramatic corner is supported by music which would retain its fascination if one had no idea of the dramatic situation to which it applied. Needless to add, I would be able and prepared to substantiate this considered opinion in detail, on the basis of the score. Meanwhile, let it be said that, although the composer's style is very eclectic, there isn't a phrase, not a harmony, in the entire score which doesn't disclose his clearly and well defined creative personality.

John O'Brien wrote the libretto for André's opera, The Merchant of Venice. When John O'Brien was presenting a theatrical production at Finchden Manor, André would always attend. In the Spring of 1968, John produced Shakespeare's "The Tempest." André and John had long talks about Shakespeare, and then André had an idea. John O'Brien:

"In 1968 I produced Shakespeare's 'The Tempest' at Finchden. It was out of that starting point that André and I got going on opera. He had wanted to write an ode to music and to use the beautiful dialog in Act V of the Merchant of Venice. After all the horrors of the trial scene and Shylock, it all reverts back to Belmont, and Shylock's daughter is left in charge of the house with her young lover. They're out in the moonlight, there's a house band playing off stage and they're expecting Portia to return after the trials. Lorenzo silences her to listen to the music and to talk about his fears, about what music can actually do, how it can charm animals and even tame the human spirit in a man who has no music in him.

"That obviously appealed to André. He liked that as something to set to music and asked me if perhaps I'd help him with it. I think in part he had got the idea because he had heard Benjamin Britten's 'Midsummer Nights Dream.'

"We talked a long time on the great lawn at Finchden in front of the house, an old Elizabethan, Jacobian house, with huge cedar trees. We discussed the 'Tempest' and my interpretation of it. Then came the suggestion. It was all very lighthearted at first. Quite soon after that, he said, 'Why don't we try an entire opera, the entire 'Merchant of Venice?' I think it must have occurred to him that it would, as an opera, give him an opportunity to look at a whole lot of fairly crucial things in his life. At first it seemed odd, that he, a Jew, would want to take Shylock on, particularly at a time when there was a feeling that Shakespeare was anti- Semitic, which is a nonsensical thing anyway. There was the portrayal of some anti-Jewish feeling, yes, but that's not the same as anti-Semitism. This was really the starting point of the opera."

André was certainly aware that Ralph Vaughan Williams wrote his "Serenade to Music" (1938) based on text from Act V of the "Merchant of Venice."

John O'Brien began writing the libretto for the "Merchant of Venice" immediately after his conversation with André, but following André's instructions that there was an "infinity of time," he initially made little progress. Soon, André left for Australia for his extended tour. Letters flew back and forth between John and André as the libretto started to take form. John enclosed a few pages from the play with markings to indicate which passages would be included in the opera and which would be deleted. One letter included a sketch of the stage for the Venice portion. After working for several months, John wrote to André on November 17, 1968, when John was vacationing on the Greek island of Paxos:

Dear André,

I began last evening to read through "The Merchant" again. I read and re-read and crossed out here and abbreviated there until I felt I had come up against the real questions: What is an opera? What is a libretto?

John had plenty of ideas for the opera, as did André. When André returned from his tour of Australia and Japan, they had long discussions about the libretto. The breakthrough came in the summer of 1970 when John and André were vacationing on Corsica:

"Once we established the dramatic shift to make all the Venice scenes into one single act, to drive that section hard and fast, there was little need for serious disagreement. Ultimately the composer tells you what he can put to music. André was himself very sensitive to literature. I felt no need to fight with Shakespeare's words for goodness sakes. Shakespeare's play was there. What counted was finding just enough words to convey a drama structurally. What was difficult for me early on was to abandon the drama of language and the music of the language, and say, 'That's got to go,' because that's what the music is going to do. Shakespeare's verse is marvelous to speak, but almost impossible to sing interestingly."

André approved of the approach of having the heroine enter 45 minutes after Act 1 started, of having a bridge with the Jews on one side and Gentiles on the other, with all action taking place on the bridge itself, and of having each act start and end with a single person on stage. The libretto was completed in just three weeks. But much time would elapse before the music was forthcoming.

In August 1972, having made progress with the opera, André wrote to John O’Brien:

Dear John,

I've just shown "The Merchant" to Hans [Keller], and he expressed astonishment at both the quantity and quality of what has come along since he last saw the sketch six weeks ago! I'm so excited I certainly couldn't have resisted ringing you up immediately if I had known where you are. [John was visiting his mother in South Africa.] However, I've come across my first dramatic problem (I won't bother you with the musical ones, which are numerous but soluble) and I hope you'll agree to help me with it.

He then continued into questions of the dramatic structure of the libretto.

By the summer of 1978, André had put to paper about two-thirds of the opera. The rest was swimming around in his head. André's technique was to write first an abbreviated orchestral version and then a full orchestral version. John O'Brien had sent the final libretto to André on July 10, 1978. He now had no excuse not to proceed with the opera, but estimated it would take about another three years. To John O'Brien, André wrote on July 11, 1978:

Dear John,

Thank you so much for the libretto! And how thoughtful of you to have made a photocopy at the same time -- both arrived safely this morning. I'm going to London tomorrow, so I'll drop it at my publishers.

Do you know Christopher Hampton's play, "Total Eclipse?" It's about Rimbaud's affair with Verlaine and the spiritual crisis that made Rimbaud give up writing at 19. It was played at the Royal Court in London ten years ago, but I only know it from a radio production, which left a lasting impression. Well, very recently I got it out of the library (it's out of print) and was utterly overwhelmed. Weeping over it seemed a poor response, and anyway I wanted to live with the play; so I wrote the author and asked his permission to base an opera on it! Yesterday I received his reply: "By all means." So now you know who your successor will be.

But don't worry: of course I won't start on it till I've finished "The Merchant" as best I can. At any rate, you'll admit that I am in no danger of repeating myself! Surely the challenge of portraying Rimbaud should alone prove enough to prevent my settling down into a competent middle-aged complacency.

I'll let you know the English National Opera's reaction to the libretto! This is all they can see at the moment: if they knew the work is nearly two-thirds finished, they wouldn't bother to commission it! I wonder how long it will take them to make up their minds.

Your old

It must have been at least a little surprising to O'Brien that André was ready to begin another opera with "The Merchant" still well short of completion, and it was characteristic of André to present this idea in the least welcome way to its recipient. Later, André sent a copy of "Total Eclipse" to O'Brien and suggested he write the libretto, but John refused.

Then on October 1, 1980, he wrote to Michael Menaugh:

Dear Michael,

Rejoice with me -- I have finished "The Merchant of Venice!" It took Hans to convince me that I really had. I kept fussing and fiddling with it, changing tiny details that I would then change back to their previous version, merely because I couldn't adjust to the new situation. Hans then offered to write to Lord Harewood, who is chairman of the ENO [English National Opera], on my behalf. I doubt whether his recommendation can override the English economic crisis, but it is good to see him so impressed.


An opera playthrough was scheduled for December 21, 1981. In attendance for the December 21 playthrough was the director of the English National Opera, Lord Harewood, orchestra director Mark Elder, chorus-master Hazel Vivienne, a staff pianist and André (André was the "orchestra" and the staff pianist the "voices"). The ENO was very pleased that André himself would play one of the piano parts. Elder remembers:

"André's opera play through was unusual because usually when we play an opera through like this, we use our own staff of pianists and singers, and try to figure things out. But in this case, the composer was there to play the piano and explain the opera. It helped a great deal. I can tell you, it was like a concerto -- such playing! Wonderful. I thought the words and music fit together very well. It was beautiful. I'm not sure if he wrote other operas, but we get so many operas, there are many, many to choose from in England. We are booked for years in advance."

After the ENO play through, André didn't know what to think. Was the ENO interested? Was there a chance his opera might actually be performed? André was upbeat when he wrote on December 26 to John O'Brien, who had visited André earlier in the year in Cumnor:

Dear John,

You're CRAZY! I don't know what telephone calls to Gaborone may have cost, but wouldn't come to anything like £100. I am accepting your cheque as a loan, to be repaid when you come back to see "The Merchant."

Don't conclude from the latter part of this last sentence that the audition has produced tangible immediate results: they were extremely friendly and obviously interested, but careful not to say anything that could be used in evidence against them! They didn't even say anything like "we'll be in touch" or "we'll let you know": that had to be inferred from the mere fact of its being, after all, an audition. The interest showed in their insistence on hearing everything that could be played, even the easier fragments of the last two scenes that had not been part of the agreed schedule; in their extremely specific and practical questions, to which my answers were taken down in writing; in their timing Act II while I played (exactly 45 minutes). They were behaving as if the opera had already been accepted and they were planning the programme.

But that, of course, may be their usual way of conducting auditions. For three hours, they gave me their entire attention; then Lord Harewood suddenly said: "Well, this was very interesting, thank you very much," and within a minute or so the room was empty. It was like falling into an air pocket! But the chorus-master, a marvelous woman named Hazel Vivienne, who had asked some very shrewd questions and at one point made me correct the prosody, joined me a moment later in the canteen to say: "I'd get cracking on the rest and finish it as soon as possible and then we'd have another play through. It might be as well to play the first two acts again, people forget." So here was one member of the jury who indicated that she, at any rate, would like to see the piece get through.

I told Hans what I've just told you and he offered to ask Lord Harewood how the audition went! As you know, it was Hans who had originated the whole thing with the ENO, so his interest is very natural and Lord Harewood may be willing to tell him something; with me, all he did was ask questions. Meanwhile, I'll follow Hazel's advice -- I've already done three more pages since the audition, even though the strain of the preparation and the emotional disorientation that followed the experience resulted in an illness that I'm just beginning to recover from. That sudden dismissal, without the least hint of any further contact, after three hours of close collaboration that had made me feel "part of the family," was the closest equivalent of prick-teasing I've ever experienced, and in a field that matters somewhat more to me than my prick.

Fortunately, I was too stunned to produce anything except stale clichés (Merry Christmas, Nicetohavemetyou) which, I am sure, was exactly what the situation demanded of me. I still think they could have said something like, "Don't expect to hear anything for at least two months" without it committing them to anything like a favourable answer; but no, they acted as if they had all got together and concentrated so hard on my music out of sheer idle curiosity. Don't you sometimes marvel at the English?

Still, all the people familiar with the procedure (Terry, Chris Seaman) assure me that this is how such things are done, and Hans said it sounds very auspicious! For my part, I have liked them so much that if a cable arrived from the Met offering a premiere and a fortune, I'd still wait for the ENO decision first. We lovers are prone to such crushes.

Ever your old,

André wrote a similar letter to Ian Dando, saying, "Susan's piano reduction makes that of Wozzeck look like chopsticks, and I worked like a maniac trying to get my fingers round as many notes as I could." He added that he had had to playa recital on short notice: "I had to rush out and replace Cristina Ortiz, who had canceled a recital in order to breast-feed her new baby! I had no such excuse, and I owe Terry too much money to be able to refuse any opportunity he puts my way for repaying him."

With the Christmas of 1981 upon him, André conveyed to Ian Dando his real opinion of the holiday season in a letter of December 12:

Then there was the pressure of Christmas. Ian, dare I confess to you that I detest Christmas? It means nothing to me: I have no religious associations, no family bonds, no childhood memories, nothing that would give it any meaning, and my reluctant annual attempt to go through the motions is sheer hypocrisy. I do try to play the game, and every year I dutifully go through my address book and send cards in alphabetical order, to all the people who are likely to embarrass me by sending me one if I've forgotten them (the best line of attack is defense); but I do it with increasing resentment, and by the time I've reached R or S, I find myself wishing for the sudden death of each successive recipient (it is lucky you are under D). And every year the list gets longer, the pressure heavier, the fatigue more intense.

Ian, can we please call the Xmas game off? I hate insulting my real friends by putting them on the same list as my doctor and bank manager, and I only sent you a present because you forced my hand by sending me one. This is why it is late, and I'm afraid I lied to you when I said I couldn't get it earlier. If you want me to have a present, send me one for my birthday and let me know the date of your own. Sorry to sound ungrateful -- I'm writing this with your warm comfortable slippers on my feet -- but surely you'd be more touched if I remembered your own birthday rather than Jesus'?


A letter from the English National Opera dated March 25, 1982, from the managing director, Lord Harewood, included the following (remembering that the December 1981 playthrough did not include acts 1 and 2):

Dear Mr. Tchaikowsky,

Your letter of February 1 has remained unanswered much too long (except that it was acknowledged at the time), because I was abroad when it arrived and since then have been trying to discover when for instance Mark Elder would prefer to have a playthrough.

Mark himself is strongly of the opinion that we should wait to hear Acts 1 and 2 in October [1982] and I think on the whole he is right.

I always hate to say to a composer that we have no immediate prospects of being able to offer a production as it is never the absolute complete truth. But the fact is that we do have several obligations - commissions, works to which we are already committed and so on - and that it will not be easy for us to find a slot. On the other hand, I don't want to sound too pessimistic as opera houses long to find good new operas and we share that view.

Yours sincerely,
Lord Harewood

André responded to Lord Harewood's letter with:

Dear Lord Harewood,

Thank you so much for your kind letter of the 25th of March [1982], which I am sorry not to have answered sooner! The reason for the delay was the need to look in on Susan Bradshaw to see how the score is shaping up, and the concert engagements that prevented me from paying that visit until yesterday.

I am delighted to say that she is doing a wonderful job at a positively phenomenal speed! At her present rate of progress, the first two acts will easily be ready by October [1982], and I shall let you know as soon as I receive them; we can then find a date for the playthrough that would suit everyone concerned.

It's very kind of you to warn me of the dangers of premature optimism, and I do realize that your interest in the piece does not mean that you will like it and accept it. If you do, of course, I shall be thrilled into temporary insanity! But if you don't, I'll comfort myself by putting it down to the economic crisis (an ever handy facesaving device) and simply start work on another piece.

With all best wishes,
Yours sincerely,
André Tchaikowsky

The playthrough in October, 1982, did not happen, of course, as André died in June. To the everlasting credit of Susan Bradshaw, even after André's death she continued to make the piano reduction of the opera knowing that payment would probably be unlikely, and completed the task to everyone's satisfaction. In the end, she did receive partial payment but considerably less than promised.