U.S. Opera
Home About Composers Operas
Recommendations Download music Recordings, books and videos
Click on an opera's title for more information

Amahl and the Night Visitors

Amelia Goes to the Ball

Antony and Cleopatra

The Aspern Papers

The Ballad of Baby Doe

The Boor

The Canterbury Pilgrims

The Consul

The Cradle Will Rock


David Rizzio

The Death of Klinghoffer

Doctor Atomic


A Full Moon in March


The Ghosts of Versailles


The Greenfield Christmas Tree

A Hand Of Bridge

Harvey Milk

I Was Looking At the Ceiling And Then I Saw the Sky

Introductions and Good-Byes


The Jumping Frog of Calaveras County

The King's Henchman

Little Women

Lord Byron

The Medium

Merry Mount

Miss Havisham's Fire

Miss Havisham's Wedding Night

Nixon in China

Peter Ibbetson

The Picture of Dorian Gray

The Pipe of Desire

Porgy and Bess

Postcard from Morocco

A Quiet Place

Robin Hood

The Ruby

The Sacrifice

The Saint of Bleecker Street

Six Characters In Search of an Author

Solomon and Balkis

The Stoned Guest

The Stronger


The Tender Land


Trouble in Tahiti


A View From The Bridge

The Visitation

A Water Bird Talk

Will You Marry Me?

Please visit our sister sites:

Mousehold Words

The Atlas of Fiction

Solomon and Balkis, or, The Butterfly that Stamped

radio opera

Music by Randall Thompson
Libretto by the composer
adapted from the Just So Stories of Rudyard Kipling
About Solomon and Balkis

Thompson's Solomon and Balkis was written to be performed either on the radio or the stage.

Cast of Characters
Solomon, son of David, king of Israel, bar Balkis, Queen of Sheba, ms or c
The Butterfly, t The Butterfly's Wife, s
Egyptian Queen, s Four Djinns, mute
Queens of Abyssinia, Etheopia, Mesopotamia, Persia, India, China, etc., representing the nine hundred and ninety-nine wives of Solomon

In his palace garden, Solomon, walking with his favorite wife, Balkis, worries about the trouble his other wives are causing him. Balkis urges him to use his magical ring to demonstrate his power to them. Solomon does not want to use his ring to show off, and is afraid that he would be humiliated as he was once before when he tried to use his magic out of pride. He resigns himself to his domestic troubles. Solomon sits down to rest, and Balkis hides nearby to watch over him.

Solomon and Balkis both witness a butterfly, arguing with his wife. The butterfly tries to impress her by saying that his magic powers are so great that he could make Solomon's palace and its gardens disappear by stamping his foot. Solomon, overhearing, is amused by the insect's presumption; he asks him why he told such a lie. The butterfly confesses that he only said it to quiet his wife, who has been quarelling with him all morning.

Balkis has an idea on restoring Solomon's domestic tranquility. She calls the butterfly's wife over. The insect admits she does not believe her husband, but lets him think she does for the sake of peace. Balkis convinces her to put her husband's powers to the test. She and her husband begin to argue again, and she challenges him to stamp. The butterfly runs to Solomon, and he, as a joke, uses his ring to summon four djinns; he tells them to take away his palace and gardens when the butterfly stamps, and to bring them back again when he stamps a second time. The butterfly does so, and his wife, suitably impressed, promises not to doubt him again.

Solomon is so overcome with laughter at this development that he does not notice the arrival of the other queens. Balkis tells them that Solomon has done this to teach a lesson in obedience to a butterfly's wife; the other wives do not believe her at first, but convinced by the sight of Solomon talking to the insect couple. The wives, realizing how much they have vexed Solomon, leave nervously. Balkis explains what has happened to Solomon; since he used his power as a joke and not out of pride, he has escaped humiliation. Solomon is amazed at the wisdom of his wife.

Performance History
World premiere (broadcast)
WABC Radio and affiliates
March 29, 1942
Balkis: Mona Paulee
Solomon: John Gurney
Butterfly: Carlo Corelli
Butterfly's Wife: Nadine Conner
Egyptian Queen: Eileen Farrell
Columbia Concert Orchestra and Chorus
Howard Barlow, conductor
(Broadcast from 1:35 to 2:30 PM)
Stage premiere
Lowell Dining Hall, Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts
April 14, 1942
Balkis: M. Willoughby Todd
Solomon: Robert Soule
Butterfly: Philip Stolar
Butterfly's Wife: Marjorie Rice
Egyptian Queen: Audrey Y. Dennison
Harvard Orchestra
Radcliffe Choral Society
Malcolm W. Holmes, conductor
S. Leonard Kent, stage director

Last update: January 1, 2009