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Gustav Holst (1874-1934) a British composer most famous for his orchestral score The Planets left in fact a much larger musical legacy. With libretto by Clifford Bax, The Wandering Scholar, Op.50 is based on the book The Wandering Scholars by Helen Waddell. The actual story of The Wandering Scholar is a comedy about a young wife, a priest, a traveling scholar; and what the husband finds when he returns home.

The opera received its premiere on January 13, 1934 at the David Lewis Theatre in Liverpool, but Holst – too ill to attend – never heard a live performance of the opera. The opera’s original manuscript had notes indicating that composer had intended to revise parts of the work, but he died before any changes could be made. Benjamin Britten later prepared a chamber version of the opera which premiered in 1951; in 1968 Britten and the composer’s daughter, Imogen Holst, edited a copy for publication.

Dating from 1908, Sāvitri, Op. 25, features a libretto by the composer, and is taken from the episode from the Mahābhārata. The composer translated the story from Sanskrit himself. The myth of Sāvitri revolves around Sāvitri and Satyavān alone together in the woods, and their encounter with the god of death. This one-act opera is performed in one movement and without an overture. At the time of its composition, it was considered revolutionary as it involved only three characters and the chamber orchestra of twelve musicians. In many ways, Sāvitri, is the precursor to the work of Benjamin Britten and the English Opera Group later in the century.

Imogen Holst wrote the preface to the published score. She noted that her father had suggested that if a prelude was needed, one of the hymns from his Choral Hymns of the Rig Veda, would help establish the appropriate atmosphere. LOTNY’s production of Travelers will incorporate that work as an interlude between the two principal works.