The Mayor of Casterbridge


Peter Tranchell wrote The Mayor of Casterbridge for the Festival of Britain in 1951. 

He described the "tribulations of a composer getting his first opera performed" in A Cambridge Opera in Cambridge Today Michaelmas Term 1951.

Here are some scans of the original vocal score from 1951, the music written in Tranchell's own hand.

Front cover of the vocal score of The Mayor of Casterbridge, original edition, 1951

List of characters

List of characters from the vocal score of The Mayor of Casterbridge, original edition, 1951

The opening bars, subsequently revised for the 1959 staging.

The opening bars of the vocal score of The Mayor of Casterbridge, original edition, 1951

The end - bar 2898!

The final bars of the vocal score of The Mayor of Casterbridge, original edition, 1951

Recording of Closing Scene: The Mayor of Casterbridge from the Commemoration CD.

Use the player below or download the MP3:

Henchard: Alan Opie (baritone)

Whittle: Roderic Keating (tenor)

Elizabeth-Jane: Alex Kidgell (soprano)

James Gibson and Thomas Hewitt Jones (pianos)

Reviews & Letters


A letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams


Read more:

Unfortunately there was no opera from the competition that might have crowned this activity, though Peter Tranchell’s competing opera The Mayor of Casterbridge, rejected by the competition at an earlier stage, was produced at Cambridge in 1951, and might well have been capable of fulfilling the expectations of the organisers. Unfortunately it was side-lined by the simultaneous production of Billy Buddat Covent Garden.

"A.J.", The Musical Times, Vol. 92, No. 1303 (Sep., 1951), p. 421

'The Mayor of Casterbridge'

The Cambridge Festival (28 July to 18 August) presented on 30 July at the Arts Theatre the first performance or Peter Tranchell's opera 'The Mayor or Casterbridge'. The composer, who is twenty-nine, is an assistant lecturer in music at Cambridge University. Peter Bentley, also of the University, was the producer. The men collaborated on the libretto, which is a compressed and crude version of Thomas Hardy's novel. Compressed, no doubt, it had to be. But the total omission of Lucetta made the romance of Farfrae and Elizabeth-Jane flat and conventional. Their first encounter, turning into a flirtation, was ludicrous and indeed embarrassing; though a more experienced producer would have made it less so. Such a producer would, indeed, have smoothed out several other awkward moments, and would have avoided the over-crowding of the stage during the opening scene when Henchard gets drunk and sells his wife. The musical texture of Tranchell's score is thick; its basic idea often seems to be the addition of one or two wrong notes to the right chord. But it is skilfully orchestrated, and sounds both less jagged and less monotonous harmonically than it looks in vocal score. The music cannot however be said to do more than keep the listener mildly interested while he waits in vain for a moment of compulsion or illumination. Yet in his forceful setting of words, and in his appreciation of the need for a well-balanced layout of solos, ensembles, and choruses, Tranchell reveals a certain sense of theatre which may bear fruit in future. Robert Rowell, one of the few professionals in the cast, sang creditably as Henchard; so did José Stubbings, as his wife. Farfrae (Antony Vercoe) was likeable, but, without a Scots accent, unbelievable. The orchestra, which included piano and electric organ, was mainly composed of students from the Royal College of Music and was conducted by the composer.