Goya at Gothenburg Opera – synopsis

Goya at Gothenburg Opera - synopsis

Goya at Gothenburg Opera – synopsis

Composer and librettist

Music: Daniel Börtz|Lyrics: Magnus Florin.


Worldpremière: GöteborgsOperan 26th of September 2009


Prologue. Presentation.

The characters introduce themselves, surrounded bye chorus in a world of splendid colours, precious jewels and costumes bedecked with the finest details.Goya is appointed court painter and swears to serves his king’s loyal servant. But amidst all the splendour Goya experiences another world — the horror of war.

Scene 1. Can one lift the hat off the brain?

Doctor Arrieta introduces himself. He is worried about his patient.

Scene 2. The tale of Saturn.

Goya and his childhood friend Zapater are saying goodbye – one is on his way to an illustrious future in Madrid, the other is to remain in the small town.Goya’s wife Josefa grieves for all the children she has lost – and to them she tells the old tale of Saturn, the ruler of time who receives a prophecy that one of his children will kill him; he seeks to avoid the prophecy by swallowing them all – but one child survives …

Scene 3. You shall paint Spanish delight.

Goya is court painter and paints portraits of King Charles IV, Queen Maria Luisa, Statesman Godoy and the Countess of Chinchon. The King criticises Goya for his realism – and surely it cannot be true that he paints live models? In France there is a revolution, but in Spain the state remains unchanged. The King’s son Ferdinand is discussed, the Queen warns: he is hungry and soon he will devour you. Unholy allances assure the survival of the state – all benefit from Godoy’s arranged marriage to the Countess of Chinchon, but the young bride feels shame.

Scene 4. An enlightened Duchess in a dark land.

Goya paints the portrait of the Duchess of Osuna.She and the Duke are the most glamorous of the Spanish nobility whilst at the same time she is attracted bye radical ideas from Paris. She believes in freedom, but shadows and bad dreams taint her inner life.

Scene 5. I have attained a certain position.

Time has passed since Goya and Zapater parted. Goya has been triumphant as court painter and portraitist,popular with the nobility, finance- and statesmen.Goya has withdrawn from his old friend.

Scene 6. What is this deck of cards you juggle with?

Goya paints Jovellano’s portrait, the liberal politician.He is horrified by Spain’s insanity, but remains optinistic: the hourglass of time has turned and all can change. He requests that Goya lets his art be a part of this new time.

Scene 7. Beware of Saturn.

Goya’s wife Josefa is ashamed of the luxury in which they now live. She gives birth to a son that survives.Xavier is a hungry child and Josefa jokes about Saturn,who swallowed his children. Maybe the newborn – likely surviving child of the tale – will one day hear about his evil father and …

Scene 8. Deaf as a stone.

Doctor Arrieta presents a report on his patient’s escalating deafness. But Goya himself is content with his remaining senses.

Scene 9. Will you paint my face?

Goya paints the portrait of the Duchess of Alba, who he has been warned about. She is unrestrained and volatile. She has one message for him: “Break up!”

Scene 10. Not the grand battles but the small events.

Doctor Arrieta remarks on Goya’s passionate meeting with the Duchess of Alba. A transformation takes place: Goya meets the madness of war — Spain suffers greatly from the Napoleonic war 1803-1815. He shows the ruthless violence and suffering in the picture The Disasters of War, with their concise pictures and captions. “A rotting corpse rises from the grave and points at a paper and some letters, a word. A word,it says ‘nothing’. Just ‘Nothing’.”


Scene 1. Long live our oppressors.

The reactionary Ferdinand VII has as a consequence of the Napoleonic war, taken the Spanish crown. His father, Carl IV, the free thinker and supporter of the French enlightened ideals, is sent into exile, and the inquisition is enforced. Goya is interrogated by the king and the Inquisitor (with remarks from Jovellanos about the notorious nude Maya painting. Goya is allowed to retain his position and salary.

Scene 2. At last, he paints a picture of me.

Goya paints his wife Josefa’s portrait – the woman who has been so close to him, whom he has never before painted. She dies. She wishes her husband and son to reconcile for her legacy. But Xavier alludes to the tale of Saturn: I would rather eat him than have him eat me.

Scene 3. It is you and your transformations.

Zapater has earned money from the war and offers Goya a loan. Goya has shut himself away in “The house of the Deaf”, a house outside Madrid where he lives far away from commissions and fills the walls with curious paintings. He arranges a viewing of the them lets his spectators – the earlier scenes’ characters – take part in in their analysis. The viewing culminates in the curious painting of Saturn devouring one of his children. Goya meets Leocadia with whom he will live in exile for the rest of his life. Xavier is bitter that the paintings are stuck to the walls and cannot be taken down and sold.

Scene 4. Request for permission to stay in France for health reasons.

Doctor Arrieta tells Ferdinand VII and the Inguisitor that Goya wishes to settle in Bordeaux. They are aware that the cause is political rather than medical.Ferdinand grants his permission – he considers that Goya serves him best in foreign quarantine.

Scene 5. I am content to simply live.

Living a life in exile in Bordeaux, Leocadia considers her relationship with Goya – is she a free model, wife,sister, mother, servant, friend, lover? She considers Goya’s fascination with painting outrage and terror.Goya’s life is nearing its end, he longs for his son, whos on his way because of the will. Goya feels tenderness for Leocadia’s daughter Rosaria and gives her all conceivable praise. He longs for Zapater, who comes although no longer alive. Goya dies and promises to send some drawings from the land of the dead.

Scene 6. I want to know the size of the inheritance.

Xavier arrives to take care of the estate inventory. Almost everything is bequeathed to him – and Leocadia and her daughter leave the house. The paintings are to be sold. Xavier considers that the telling of tales of Saturn has now terminated.

Scene 7. I am still learning / What were his last words?

Goya remains and meets Rosario. She too is dead and te11s of her life as copyist at the Prado museum. Goya imagines a house he can enter together with her and Leocadia and all the others. He imagines that one will ask her if he was her father and what were his lastvords. “Then you will answer: He said nothing. They ask: Nothing at all? Nothing. But I think he laughed a little.”

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