Solomon and Balkis, or, The Butterfly that Stamped
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's Wife,s
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.
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