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Peter Ibbetson

lyric drama in three acts

Music by Deems Taylor
Libretto by Constance Collier and Deems Taylor
after the novel by George du Maurier
About Peter Ibbetson

After the enormous success of Taylor's now-forgotten first opera for the Met, The King's Henchman, the Met quickly commissioned another. Taylor settled on Peter Ibbetson as his subject after a few false starts, including abandoned settings of Heywood Broun's fantastic story Candle Follows his Nose and Elmer Rice's realist play Street Scene (which would in be set successfully more than ten years later by Kurt Weill).

Cast of Characters
Peter Ibbetson, t Colonel Ibbetson, his uncle, bar
Mary, Duchess of Towers, s Mrs. Deane, ms
Mrs. Glyn, her mother, c Achille, proprietor of "La Tête Noire"l;, t
Major Duquesnois, b The Chaplain of Newgate Prison, b
Charlie Plunkett, t Guy Mainwaring, bar
A Footman, t Diana Vivash, s
Madge Plunkett, ms Victorine, s
A Sister of Charity, ms Manservant, bar
The Prison Governor, bar A Turnkey, bar
Pasquier de la Mariére, Peter's father, bar Marie Pasquier, Peter's mother, s
Madame Seraskier, s Mimsey Seraskier, actor
Gogo Pasquier, actor
Guests, Servants, the Warden, the Prison Doctor, etc.

Act I

A party at an English country house in 1855. Colonel Ibbetson, a notoriously bad poet and an annoyance to almost everyone, surprises the crowd by reading an excellent poem in French. His nephew, Peter, unintentionally humiliates him when he reveals that the poem is actually by Alfred de Musset. His uncle is furious; Peter confesses to Mrs. Deane, on whom the Colonel has been pressing his unwanted affections, that he hates his uncle; he remembers his childhood days in Paris and his childhood love, Mimsey Seraskier. His uncle later reveals to Mrs. Deane that he was actually Peter's father, something Peter has never suspected. Mimsey, now Mary, Duchess of Towers, enters, and she and Peter seem to recognize each other.

Act II

Two years later in Paris, Peter sees Mary again. In a dream, the two of them visit the garden of their youth, where Peter sees the Colonel admit he is Peter's father. When he awakes, the two of them meet and each realize who the other are. They learn that they have each had the same dream. Mary, however, tells Peter she is not free, and leaves him, telling him that they will never meet again.


At Colonel Ibbetson's rooms in London, Mrs. Deane has come to try to convince Colonel Ibbetson to stop pursuing her. Peter sees the letter the Colonel wrote and confronts him; there is a fight, and Peter accidentally kills his uncle. On the morning of his execution, Mrs. Deane tells Peter that he has been reprieved; Mary has won it for him. She sends him a message: he should sleep, and try to "dream true." In his dreams, he visits his childhood home with Mary, who tells him that they will be together every night in their dreams. Thirty years later, Mrs. Deane comes again to visit the dying Peter; she tells him Mary has dies; he replies that he already knew: she had not come to him the previous night in his dream. An apparition of Mary comes to join Peter as he dies, and they embrace as the curtain falls.

Performance History
World premiere
Metropolitan Opera, New York, New York
February 7, 1933
(16 performances)
Tullio Serafin, conductor
Joseph Urban, designer
Wymetal, stage director
Discography Search for recordings of Peter Ibbetson at Amazon.com

Deems Taylor: "I could never dedicate my days" from Peter Ibbetson (Licia Albanese)


Souvenirs from American Opera

CD / IRCC 818 (1998)

Last update: January 1, 2009