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Composer:Alice Shields
Librettist:Nancy Dean
Criseyde,” by composer-dramatist Alice Shields and librettist Nancy Dean, is a feminist view of Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde. Created in Middle English drawn from Chaucer’s tale, the opera can be performed in either Chaucer's Middle English or in Modern English, or some of both. The opera Criseyde is the story of an uncle who forces his widowed niece to take on his handsome young boss as a lover. Things turn out badly, and the niece, who has little choice in anything, is blamed for it all. The opera focuses on the imbalance of power between the genders. In Act One, Pandar pressures his niece Criseyde into communicating with his boss Troilus. In Act Two, the couple, now deeply in love, fall into each other’s arms. In Act Three, Criseyde, exiled by the government in exchange for a warrior who is being held hostage by the enemy, is taken to an enemy military camp and cannot escape. For this the uncle and the lover back home badmouth her, calling her unfaithful, etc., and then the lover dies in battle to quench his feeling of being betrayed. The opera “Criseyde” summarizes the historical position of women as not being the main determiners of their fate, but as being commanded and controlled by male relatives.

Title Information

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Approximate Runtime (hh:mm)

Number of Acts

Musical Style
Alice Shields’ music in Criseyde is in a lyrical style encompassing Gregorian chant and Indian ragas through the language of chromatic harmony. Drawing on her experience in a variety of genres including electronic music, Indian vocal music and vocal

Vocal & Musical Forces
7 singers, flute, oboe, English horn, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, trombone, harp, piano

Original Cast
Elebash Hall, Semi-staged performance, April 24, 2008: Kerri Marcinko as Criseyde (soprano), Richard Byrne as Troilus (baritone), Lawrence Long as Pandar (bass), Heidi Skok as Cassandra (mezzo-soprano),Sharla Nafziger as The First Lady (soprano), Lisa Mandelkorn as The Second Lady (soprano), Rebecca Ringle as The Third Lady (mezzo-soprano)

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