the rape of the lock opera



Belinda is asleep as Ariel, her guardian sylph enters and sings “Sol,” an aria that opens with a salutation to the sun and an invitation to Belinda and the audience to “hear and believe” his words.  He continues on in a warning that he has seen an omen that something dangerous might happen that day, and she should be wary of Men in particular.

Ariel sends her lap dog, Shock to wake her with the morning mail.  Ariel calls for his three assistants, and after none of them appear, shrugs his shoulders and goes to look for them.  Belinda reads a letter from Baron Lord Petre, (a pastoral poem also by Pope) which he sings aside (“Say, lovely maid”.)  Unimpressed, she says to herself, “this isn’t love”, and picking up a book of poems by Pope” she says the baron should learn of real love from the tragic tale of Eloisa and Abelard. She sings “Eloisa,” a dramatic aria excerpted from Pope’s poem on the 12th C. lovers. 

Exhausted, she collapses on the bed.  The 3 sylphs, Ariel’s assistants, appear floating downfrom above and we hear the offstage chorus sing “Some to the Sun,” about them and what Sylphs do on Earth.  The trio then describes their individual jobs, assisting coquettes in their airs and flirtations.  Ariel enters and frowns, seeing them clowning around.  They in return spray him with several perfumes. 

Ariel calls them to order as Belinda rises and dresses for the day.  The four sylphs are joined by the offstage chorus in the Toilette scene, describing the array of cosmetics and the pre-

cious containers from all over the empire.  Belinda feels that if people were to cultivate their natural attractions to beauty, the problems of the world would be greatly diminished. 


Outside Hampton Court, a residence of the British Royalty, lords and ladies arrive for a pleasant afternoon.  The lords admire Belinda, partly teasing.  The baron admires her locks.  Umbriel, a gnome in the service of the King and Queen of Spleen, comments on the baron’s envy. 

Ariel sees Umbriel and after everyone exits into Hampton Court, he summons all his legions to protect his ward. Dancers enter as sylphs, circling and hovering.  Ariel gives out orders to protect the watch, the diamond earrings and her favorite ringlet.  Ariel will protect the lapdog, Shock. 

Furthermore he specifies that fifty sylphs must protect the petticoat, a defense which had been known to fail often.  He threatens all with dire punishments if they neglect their duty and follows after Umbriel towards the Cave of Spleen.


Inside Hampton Court, lords and ladies enter and chat.  The lords admire Sir Plume’s fashionable clothing from the latest designers in Paris.  Plume delivers a letter to Belinda from Lady Mary Wortley Montague, whose husband is the ambassador to Turkey. 

“Snuff and the Fan”.  Before reading the letter, the ladies participate in mock-military drills in the use of their fans as a weapon responsible for many “executions”.  In retalliation, the lords request instructions from Sir Plume in the handling of their snuff-boxes. He describes the surly, scornful or  seductive pinch, and warns they must never sneeze.

Belinda, amused, challenges Plume and the baron to a Spanish card game, “Ombre”.  Described as if it were a battle in the Trojan War and wildly enacted by dancers as cards, the game is won by Belinda, who sings a cadenza of smug victory. 

Clarissa intives all to have coffee, a relatively new treat in London society.  The baron and his friends extol its pleasures and virtues.  The ladies sit aside to read Lady Mary’s letter, which is full of fascinating and extravagant surprises.

The three sylphs notice that the coffee has affected the baron.  He takes out a pair of scissors and standing behind Belinda, cuts off a ringlet.  Everyone is outraged,  stunned and horrified as the scene ends.


CANTO   IV      (omitted)                     

In their cave, the King and Queen of Spleen bicker over the flaws of the opposite sex.  They only agree on one thing - that they both despise critics!

Umbriel enters to greet them and tell them about Belinda and her famous charm.  If they would make her sad, they would be able to make a great many people irritated and splenetic. 

The queen pours a bag of vapours over Belinda. Umbriel relates how the baron built an altar that morning and made offerings to Love in order to obtain and keep the lock.  The queen allows the first request to stand but denies the second. 


In the Battle of the Beaux and Belles the lords and ladies make

use of their fans and snuff-boxes.  Largely wordless, a combat of flirtations and snubbery ensues.

Belinda finally strikes the baron’s snuff-box with her fan.  He makes a monumental effort not to sneeze but can’t resist.  He falls to the floor with a tremendous, orgasmic sneeze and is bested.

Belinda demands that he return the lock.  All agree. The lock is nowhere to be found.  The sylphs speculate on its whereabouts but Ariel sees it rise in the back of the scene, a sparkling new heavenly star, a tribute Belinda’s trials and innocence.




(Canto IV is omitted from the  

oratorio and remains unset.)