Commissioned by The Oxford Opera Club

The Opera was completely rewritten for premiere by the Santa Fe Opera Company in the USA on 5 August 1978

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  • SATB
  • 2 sopranos, countertenor, 4 tenors, 2 baritones, 4 bass baritones
  • 2 hr 15 min
  • Strephen Oliver based on the play by John Webster
  • English

Programme Note


The young Duchess of Malfi is a widow, forbidden by her brothers to remarry. The two brothers place a spy, one Daniel de Bosola, in their sister’s household, stressing the importance of family honour. Yet Ferdinand, the cardinal, has already reneged on his commitments to Bosola and contemptuously assumes gold alone will buy his honour. Bosola is soon corrupted by his masters. The honour of the Duchess is slighted. She marries, secretly and below her station, taking Antonio Bologna, her major-domo, as her second husband but honorably treating him as an equal. Discovered by her brothers, the Duchess is imprisoned,while Bosola and Ferdinand kill each other in a fight.