Music by George W. Chadwick Libretto by William Chauncy Langdon after the biblical Book of Judith
Something between an opera and an oratorio, Judith tells the story of the Biblical heroine in formal tableaux, with minimal stage action.
Cast of Characters
Chorus of Israelites, captive Hebrews, soldiers, camp-followers
In the city of Bethulia, the beseiged Israelites are despairing, despite the exhortations of their priests. Ozias, the chief priest, rebuffs the Asshurites' demand to surrender. Judith enters and recounts a vision she had, in which God told her that she would rescue her people. The chorus warns her that she risks death or dishonor, but she still goes off to the Asshurite camp.
Holofernes, leader of the Asshurite army, recounts his old conquests. When his envoy, Achior, reports that the Israelites are trusting to their god to save them, Holofernes has him put in chains and cast before the city gates. When Judith arrives, Holofernes, smitten, grants her request for free passage through the army. Left alone with him, Judith makes Holofernes drunk and kills him with his own sword.
In Bethulia, the people are astonished to see Judith approaching with the head of Holofernes. Achior converts to the worship of Jehovah, and the Israelites, their spirits restored, prepare for battle.
World premiere Worcester Festival, Worcester, Massachusetts September 23, 1901