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The Boor

opera buffa in one act

Music by Dominick Argento
Libretto by John Olon-Scrymgeour
after the play by Anton Chekhov
About The Boor

Argento's pastiche of the traditional one-act opera buffo. The servant, traditionally mute, has a small but significant singing part, and in lieu of an intermezzo, there is a wordless unaccompanied song by the title character. The Boor, like many of Argento's chamber pieces, presents a great opportunity for singers who can act.

Cast of Characters
The Servant, an old man, t The Widow, young and pretty, s
The Boor, a middle-aged man, b-bar

In 1890, a beautiful young widow sits in the darkness in her country house, mourning for her husband who died a year ago. Her servant tries to convince her to forget her loss, as he has since the death of his wife, but she refuses. Left alone, she reproaches her dead husband for his infidelities during his life.

The servant returns to tell the widow that a rude man has come and insists on seeing her. Before she can object, the man bursts into the room. He tells her that he is her next-door neighbor, and that he has come to collect a debt her husband owed. The widow tells him that she will repay him in two days when her agent returns, but the neighbor insists that he must have the money by tomorrow to repay a loan or he will be ruined.

The widow again refuses him, claiming that she is too upset on the anniversary of her husband's death for business matters. Left alone, the neighhbor fumes that he is considered "a boor" for trying to save his home. He determines to stay until he receives his money, and passes the time with a wordless song.

The widow, annoyed by his singing, comes out, and the two of them trade insults. When the widow tells him that he doesn't know how to behave in the company of ladies, the neighbor replies by telling her of the ladies he knew when he was young, and that he now has no time for women. She replies by telling him of her husband's infidelities. The neighbor accuses her of using her mourning to attract male attention, and, enraged, she calles him a boor.

Enraged, the neighbor challenges the widow to a duel. The widow fetches her husband's pistols, and the neighbor, impressed in spite of himself with her spirit, shows her how to use the pistol as the two of them realize their feelings for one another. When the guns are ready, he tells her he will fire into the air, because he loves her; when she grows angry, he tells her that he will be pleased to die byher enchanting hand. He proposes, and she vacillates, but as the curtain falls she puts her hand on his shoulder.

Performance History
World premiere
Eastman School of Music, Rochester, New York
May 6, 1957
Bibliography Search for book about The Boor at Amazon.com

Dominick Argento: The Widow's Aria from The Boor


Boosey & Hawkes American Arias: Soprano

Boosey and Hawkes 2004

Dominick Argento: The Boor's Aria from The Boor


Boosey & Hawkes American Arias: Bass

Boosey and Hawkes 2004

Last update: January 1, 2009