• Stephen Oliver
  • The Girl and the Unicorn (1978)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned by The West Eleven Children's Opera Group

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  • chorus of flexible size
  • 2 female, 2 male, 1 male or female
  • 1 hr
  • Stephen Oliver
  • Stephen Oliver, translated into German by Georg Reuter
  • English

Programme Note


To catch a Unicorn, the old books tell us, you must put a young girl in its way. It will become docile at once and place its head in her lap. Then it may easily be taken. A Sinister Man persuades the town that a Unicorn in the nearby forest is dangerous. They put a dumb, catatonic Girl out as bait. As a source of income to the town, the Unicorn becomes
useless and is destroyed. In trying to prevent its death, theinnocent creature at the hands of ignorant and frightened people, manipulated by a selfish and powerful figure. But death brings new life with it. It thus bears an obvious resemblance to the central fact of Christian faith. Do not believe a word the Sinister Woman says.


A unicorn has been seen in the forest and the superstitious villagers, blind to the beauty of the mythical creature, are terrified. they demand that a mute girl, ("only have to look at her to see she’s not all there”) be sacrificed to the beast to assuage their terror. She is dragged off to the forest and kept alone, unaware that she is being used to draw the unicorn into the hunters’ traps. When the fabulous creature appears, it and the girl become enraptured with one another, and she begins to find her voice in a wordless duet with the unicorn. the hunters arrive, and the terrible ‘thing’ is led away to be put on public exhibition. The unicorn show is a great success, complete with tee shirts and souvenir mugs, until the government inspectors arrive and declare that the horn of the unicorn is a threat to public safety and must be sawn off. The girl arrives to see this desecration in progress, and in her anger screams for help, thus finding her speaking voice. the crowd turns on the unicorn, which is now little more than a horse, and kills it in a final, futile excess of rage. It becomes clear that the sacrificial roles have become reversed, and that the girl has found a new life (like it or not) through the death of the unicorn.


Oliver’s thought-provoking musical is interspersed with three parable songs that can be sung by the audience.