The Importance Of Being Earnest

  • 2005
  • 120'

A full length comic chamber opera in two acts for five characters based on the Oscar Wilde play.
Libretto: Eugene Benson.
Premier: concert reading Stratford Summer Music 2005.


LADY BRACKNELL. (Low Mezzo) A most formidable lady, and in her early fifties.
GWENDOLEN. (High Mezzo) About 23, Lady Bracknell’s daughter
CECILY. (Coloratura Soprano) About 18, Jack’s ward.
JACK. (Baritone) Aged 29, a bachelor and wealthy man-about-town.
ALGERNON, (Tenor) Aged 26, a bachelor and wealthy man-about-town.
(In Wilde’s play there are ten characters; in this chamber opera there are five)


Based on Oscar Wilde’s famous comedy, first performed in 1895. The plot concerns two young men – John (Jack) Worthing and Algernon Moncrieff, who woo two young ladies, Gwendolyn Fairfax and Cecily Cardew.
Jack, who lives in the country, has invented a younger brother Ernest, whose misadventures give Jack an excuse to escape to the pleasures of London. Algernon, living in the City, has invented an invalid friend “Bunbury” whose frequent illnesses allow Algernon to escape to the country in search of pleasure. Both young men use the name “Ernest” in their romantic pursuits.  Gwendolen accepts Jack’s proposal of marriage because she has always felt she was fated to marry someone called Ernest and Cecily accepts Algernon because she too had always determined that she would marry someone by the name of Ernest.
These affairs of the heart are further complicated when Gwendolen’s mother, the formidable Lady Bracknell, interrogates Jack, her prospective son-in-law, only to discover that he was born, parentless,in a handbag!  She refuses to consent to the marriage as she later refuses to allow Algernon, her nephew, to marry Cecily.  The impasse is solved to great comic effect when Lady Bracknell discovers that Jack is, in fact, Algernon’s long lost brother and her nephew.


In Wilde’s play there are two settings; the chamber opera has one setting – Algernon Moncrieff’s apartment in London and the entire action takes place between 2 and 3.30 p.m.

(To hear samples of music go to Ernest, The Importance of Being which contains most of the same arias)
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