Synthesised audio sample - Harold "Overture".

Opera  in four acts, requiring 10 sets for 12 scenes, 2 sopranos, 2 contraltos, 4  tenors, 3 baritones and 2 basses as soloists, with two other male voices not  specified by the composer directly but as a baritone and a tenor (The Monte and  Earl Rolf), a male chorus and an orchestra consisting of a strings, 2 flutes,  piccolo, 2 hautboys, 2 clarinets in C, 2 bassoons, a double bassoon, 4 horns in  F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, contra bass, kettledrum and percussion.

Synopsis:  Harold is an opera in four Acts with a Prologue. There are 12 scenes in all  with a possible duplication of Act I, Scene 1, and Act I, Scene II, as well as  Act I, Scene III and Act III, Scene II.

Prologue:  Godwin, Earl of Wessex voluntarily appears before the Witan (the Saxon  Parliament) accused of treason.  The  Saxon Godwin argues that he rightly defended his own people against the foreign  Normans in their midst and that he is loyal to the king, Edward the  Confessor.  Godwin is exonerated. Sweyn,  his eldest son, is then accused of seducing a nun, Algive, who was forced into  the cloister to prevent her marrying Sweyn. In repentance, Sweyn relinquishes  his heritage as his father’s heir, and this his claim to the English crown, in  favour of his brother Harold. He becomes a pilgrim. The double trial inflames  the Witan which calls on the Saxons to drive out the Normans

Act  I Scene 1: To strengthen his cause and provide a Saxon heir able to replace the  aging King Edward’s idiot son, Godwin urges Harold to marry Aldyth, daughter of  the Saxon Morcan of Mercia. Harold resolves to remain true to Edith, his  cousin, whom he cannot marry without dispensation under the laws of  consanguinity.

Act  I Scene 2: To ensure he keeps the peace, hostages from Godwin’s family,  Wolnoth, Harold’s brother, and Haco, Sweyn’s eldest son, are taken by Odo,  Bishop of Bayeaux, to be placed in the Norman Duke William’s care in  France.  His mother, Githa, makes Harold  swear to rescue Wolnoth if William refuses to release him.

Act  I Scene 3: Edith and Harold meet to declare their love. The seer, Hilda,  Edith’s grandmother, sees a crown blazing over Harold’s head and predicts that  the day the couple marries will be the most fateful of Harold’s life.

Act  II Scene 1: With William ill in England, Harold rashly promises to support  William’s claim to the throne in order to keep the threatened peace. William,  intending to force an oath of allegiance from him, lures Harold to France by  keeping the hostages beyond the agreed time. Harold is warned by Haco not to  trust William, but Harold resolves to keep his promise.

Act  II Scene 2:  On Haco’s advice, Harold  acts as if in a dream as he swears the required oath with his hand on a covered  reliquary. Odo uncovers the contents to reveal only bones. Harold starts back,  horrified.

Act  II Scene 3: Githa persuades Edith to enter the nunnery, thus setting Harold  free to marry Aldyth. Harold and Alred enter, arguing the validity of Harold’s  oath to William, which Harold now intends to break. Harold sends Alred to the  chieftains to ask if they will still follow him if he breaks his vow. He  refuses to marry Aldyth. Edith, returning, overhears this. She renounces all  claims on Harold and leaves to become a nun. Harold laments his broken vow to  William and to Edith.

Act  II Scene 4: The dying Edward names Harold as his heir. As monks begin prayers  for the dying, Edward starts up and prophecies that a distant nation will rule  England, a new tongue will be imposed and the Saxons will disappear.

Act  III Scene 1: Harold, with the Saxon army, prepares to march against the Norman  invasion. Before his troops, who have no knowledge of the broken oath, a Norman  messenger-priest accuses the new king of perjury and demands he be delivered up  to William as a traitor.  Harold sends a  reply that he was duped into the oath and that the church has relieved him of  any guilt.  His troops rally to him and  leave for Hastings. Alone, Harold broods on his fate, fearing his sin will be  England’s ruin.

Act  III Scene 2: Hilda tells a shocked Edith that Harold will soon be hers. Harold  comes to bid Hilda farewell. Hilda gives him a protective banner Wicca, a witch  appears, and Hilda asks her to predict the outcome of the battle. Wicca hands  her a stick which turns into a snake. It’s bite kills Hilda.

Act  IV Scene 1: With others, Githa, Alred and later Edith search for Harold among  the fallen on the battlefield of Senlac.

Act  IV Scene 2: As William’s troops celebrate their victory, the searchers find  Harold’s body. Alred asks for it, but William orders the body be left exposed.  He predicts the rise of a great nation through this mingling of blood on the  battlefield. Edith reviles William, praises Harold’s sacrifice of love and  life, and dies, cradling his body. Alred raises his arms in blessing as the  agitated bystanders run from the scene.


  • M‑H 1/4‑1—Full score

    Autograph full score of  Act I of Harold. Deep purple  leatherette bound volume, the spine embossed in gold: ‘Harold–Act I.’ 36.5cm x  28.75cm x 2.5cm. Black inked score. One blank frontpage and one blank endpage.  233 paginations, plus two unpaginated score paper sheets preceding the score  itself. Imprinted ‘LARD ESNAULT. Paris 25 Rue Feydeau’ in an embossed  rectangle. 24-stave score paper with two printed additional percussion lines  below. Brown staving. The first recto inscribed in the composer’s hand: ‘G.W.L.  M-Hall. Melbourne University.’ The first verso inscribed ‘Harold.* Music Drama  by G.W.L. Marshall--Hall.’ The asterisked indication reads: ‘founded upon  Lytton’s Historical Romance.’ This is followed by a cast list:

    • Sopranos: EDITH grand-daughter of Hilda,  cousin to Harold
    • GITHA wife of Godwin, cousin to Hilda
    • Contraltos: HILDA grandmother of Edith, a VALA
    • WICCA  a reputed witch
    • Tenors:SWEYN eldest son of GODWIN(to be rendered by the same  singer if possible)
    • HACO  son of Sweyn
    • ALRED  Bishop of Winchester
    • EDWARD  King of England.
    • Baritones:GODWIN Earl of Wessex
    • HAROLD son of Godwin
    • SIWARD Earl of Northumbria
    • Basses:WILLIAM Duke of Normandy
    • ODO Bishop of Bayeaux

    The second recto  inscribed ‘Chorus of Saxons, and Normans; a monk; Norman lords; Earl Rolf;  Saxon and Norman serving-men, knights etc. etc. The scene of action is  sometimes in England, and other times in Normandy.’ Both the first recto and  first verso are in M-H’s hand. The second recto is signed by him and the  following notice is added: ‘N.B. The various tempi are only partially  indicated, their exact rendering being left to the discretion of the conductor,  who must be guided by his musical feeling. In many scenes (such as Act II,  Scene III) the utmost liberty is allowable, and the tempo slackens or quickens  with the ebb and flow of the melody, and can be regulated only by the emotional  perception of the conductor. Considerable latitude must also be extended to the  singers, when emotional exigencies come under consideration; But any alteration  of the score for the sake of vocal display is to be absolutely avoided as  grossly misrepresenting art. Where the voice and the orchestra are heard together,  the forte and fortissimo of the latter must be tempered to those of the former:  G.W.L. Marshall-Hall.’

    The recto is  blank. Pagination then begins at p.l where the Prologue commences. The page is  headed: ‘Prologue. The Witana-gemote. Westminster hall.’ Stage directions are  given in English (black ink) and German (red ink) throughout the Prologue which  continues to p.113. The libretto is given in English and German in black ink as  far as p.113 only. Tempo directions are in English. The scoring is for 2 flutes  and piccolo, 2 hautboys, 2 clarinets in C, 2 bassoons, double bassoon, 4 horns  in F, 4 trumpets in C, 3 trombones, tuba, contra-bass, kettledrum, percussion  and strings. 3 male choruses are required.

    Page 114 is  headed: ‘Act I. Scene 1. A room in the house of Godwin.’ The scene is described  in English in red ink. From p.114 to p.181 stage directions are given in  English only and in red ink. The libretto is given in English only but in black  ink. At p.161 the page is headed: ‘Scene 11’ in red ink. At p.182 the page is  headed: ‘Scene 111’ in red ink. From p.182 to the end of the volume, i.e. Scene  111, the English libretto is underlined in German. At p.201 the English stage  directions are also given in German in red ink.

  • M‑H 1/4‑2—Full score of Act II

    A full autograph score  of Act II of Harold. Description and  dimensions as for M-H 1/4-1 of which it is the extension. The spine is embossed  in gold: ‘Harold—Act II.’ Black inked score. One blank front endpage and one  blank endpage. Pagination begins at 234 and ends at 456, the verso occupied but  not paginated. At p.234 the page is headed: ‘Act II’ in black ink and inscribed  in red ink: ‘Scene 1. Normandy. A room in a castle of Duke William.’

    The orchestration  is as for M-H 1/4-1. Imprinted as in M-H 1/4-1. The libretto is in English in  black ink. The stage directions are in English in red ink. at p.288 the page is  headed in red ink: ‘Scene 11. A long, narrow, dimly lit chapel,’ and continues  with an extensive scene description. At p.320 at the half page: ‘Scene III’ is  inscribed in black ink. Then in red ink: ‘England. A park in the vicinity of  the royal palace.’ At p.427 the page is headed in red ink: ‘Scene IV. The  Confessor’s Chamber,’ followed by an extensive description of the scene.  Deletions and renotations occur on the majority of the pages as in M-H 1/4-1.  These are easily read and do not create a major disturbance to page visuals as  in Vol.1, nor are they as extensive in each instance. No German is included in  this volume. No full score of Act III or Act IV is present in the archive.

  • M‑H 1/4‑3—Full score of an extract from the Prologue

    Full score autograph  extract from the Prologue to Harold.  A navy leatherette cover 27.5cm x 37.5cm x 1.5cm with darker corners and with  edgings embossed in arabesques holds a white label on the front section  reading: ‘HERVAR.’ The interior sides of this cover are green and grey marbled.  The score within is separate and does not appear ever to have been bound into  the cover. It lies horizontal to the cover opening. The score paper pages are  of the same size as the cover. They are tied at the left edge in three places  with twine string. There are 48 paginations. Black inked score. 24 stave. No  imprint.

    The contents  correspond to the full score M-H 1/4-1 from p.20 at the last bar to the end of  p.60, i.e. from the first page of the extract to the end of its p.44. At p.45  of the extract corresponds to p.61 of the full score. M-H 1/4-1 but the extract  lacks the vocal lines present in the full score. pp 46,47,48, of the extract do not correspond with the full score,  where the vocal fabric is continued, but constitute an orchestral ending to the  extract not present in the full score. This extract may have been the section  of Harold known as ‘Godwin’s Defence’  used at the 1888 performance of a portion of the opera by Henschel at the  London Popular Concerts. The origin of the term ‘Hervar’ on the label is not  clear.

    See also M-H  1/4-8: 1 to 40

  • M‑H 1/4‑4—Piano and vocal score of Act I

    An autograph piano and  vocal score of Act I of Harold. A  purple leatherette bound volume, the spine and corners of a stronger shade of  purple than the brown toned cover which is embossed in gold on the front:  ‘Music.’ 24.5cm x 29.5cm x 2.5cm. Black inked score. No imprint. 12-stave score  paper in brown lining. Pagination begins at 2 and continues to 222, with four  preceding blank score paper pages, excepting the fourth, which is an  unpaginated p.l. The volume ends with 11 blank score paper pages, the verso of  the eleventh being plain paper and inscribed:

    ‘Prologue. Scene  1. The WITENA-GEMOT-: p.l.

    Act I Scene I
    • Godwin and Githa—p.130
    • Godwin  and Harold—[p.] 147
    • Harold  alone—[p.] 161
    • Normans  Odo and Harold—[p.] 166
    • Ditto.  Githa and Wolnath—[p.] 168
    • Ditto  and Haco—[p.] 174
    • Act I Scene II Edith and Harold [p.] 182
    • Ditto  and Hilda—[p.] 207

    2 red marbled  front end pages are followed by 4 white front end pages, the first recto of  which is inscribed ‘Harold. Music—Drama by G.W.L. Marshall-Hall (founded upon  Lyttons’ Historical Romance).’ The first verso holds a list of characters which  corresponds to that of the full score M-H 1/4-1. The second recto holds the  same performance advice as is given in M-H 1/4-1 on the second recto of the  frontend pages of that score. Page l. (unpaginated) is headed: ‘Prologue. The  Witena-gemote.’ The scene ‘Westminster Hall’ and its following description are  in red ink. At p.4 the left margin contains indications for four male choruses  to be used. Greek words are pencilled over the piano score at p.165 and  continue to the 4th line of p.166. They recur at p.179.

  • M‑H 1/4‑5—Piano and vocal score of Acts II, III and IV

    An autograph piano and  vocal score of Harold acts two, three  and four. This is the only copy of Acts Three and Four in the archive, possibly  also the only surviving copies. A blue-green leatherette bound volume, the  spine and corners in a darker shade. The spine is embossed in gold bands, with  the word ‘Music.’ 24.5cm x 30cm x 3cm. Black inked score. The score has been  inserted reversed and must therefore be read commencing at the back of the  volume. Marbled endpapers occur where the score begins. A label on the inside  of the front cover reads: ‘Bound by Thos. Atkinson. Bookseller etc. Kendal.’  The recto of the first plain endpage is inscribed ‘Harold’ in pencil. An  arithmetical problem in pencil is also inscribed. A loose sheet of tattered  paper is inserted before the score begins. This is the Index to the volume in  which the scene commencement pages and entries of soloists are given for Acts  2, 3 and 4 in black ink. There are 299 paginations and 11 blank pages of  12-stave brown line MS without imprint. The libretto is in English and in black  inked throughout. Page l is inscribed in black ink: ‘Act II’ and in red ink:  ‘Scene 1. Normandy. The interior of a castle of Duke William.’

    At p.37 the  second scene begins. The page is inscribed ‘Scene II. A long, narrow, dimly lit  chapel.’ Page 61 is inscribed ‘Scene III. England. A Park in the vicinity of  the royal palace.’ Page 146 is inscribed ‘Scene IV. The Confessor’s Chamber.’  Page 161 is ended: ‘End of Act II.’ Page 162 is headed: ‘Act III. Scene I. Part  of a Saxon encampment.’ Page 192 is headed: ‘Scene II—The same as Act I Scene  III—Edith is seated on the greensward, near the fountain.’ Page 247 is  inscribed ‘End of Act III.’ Page 248 is inscribed ‘Act IV. Scene I. The  battlefield of SENLAC.’ Page 253 is headed: ‘Scene II. A curtain of the tent is  drawn, and discloses a large number of Normans, amongst whom is Duke William,  carousing.’ Page 299 ends: ‘The end of Act IV’ and is signed across the right  margin: ‘G.W.L. Marshall-Hall.’ Pages ll9-122 are in fact additional printed  areas from a published score of the same size as the general format of this  score. These correspond to part of M-H 1/4-6, i.e., pp.45, 46, 47, 48 of the  latter, here also numbered in ink 119, 120, 121 and 122. Of these pp.45-46 are  loose. Pages 47-48 are pasted in. These pages carry additional inked entry  markings. These are: p.ll9 (published page 45) headed ‘Harold’ as is p.120 (46)  in black ink; p.121 (47) 3rd last bar: ‘Edith’ in black ink; p.122 (48) headed  ‘Edith’; at the 2nd last bar of line 3 in black ink ‘Edith’ in red and over it  black ink; and at line 4 bar 2: ‘Harold’ in red over black ink. Over the last 2  bars a pasted in additional pair of staves is headed: ‘Edith’ and ‘Harold’  under it in red ink. At p.123 the score in original form resumes. At pp.205 and  206, Greek is pencilled over the English libretto together with pencilled added  notation. This occurs again at pp.208, 249, 250, 251. The final page has an  unpaginated pencilled piano sketch in reverse on the page in relation to the  main score.

  • M‑H 1/4‑6—Published song, ‘Where the Thorny Brake’ for Act II

    The published song  ‘Where the Thorny Brake.’ Also subtitled: ‘From the second Act of Harold by  G.W.L. Marshall-Hall.’ Published by the Magazine  of Music as a Supplement in September 1888 together with an Andante for  organ or harmonium by Allen Allen. The pages present are numbered 45 to 48.  These correspond to Act II, vocal score M-H 1/4-5 pages 117 to 122.

  • M‑H 1/4‑7—Fragment of piano and vocal score

    Fragment of a piano and  vocal score of Harold. 4 pages (2  leaves) of score paper of which 3 pages are occupied in black ink. 12 stave. No  imprint. This corresponds to M-H 1/4-5 at p.143, 144, 145 i.e. Act II Scene  III, but appears to be a related working, not a duplicate. It is for Harold  alone as soloist.

  • M‑H 1/4‑8—Orchestral parts

    Orchestral  parts of Harold. All on score paper  24cm x 31.5cm. 12 stave. A segment of the Prologue corresponding to M-H 1/4-1  from p.20 at the last bar to bar 3 of p.64. Present are: 7 first violin parts,  7 second violin, 5 viola, 8 violoncello and double bass, 1 flute, 1 piccolo, 1  oboe, 1 clarinet, 1 bassoon, 1 double bassoon,1 first and second horn, 1 third  and fourth horn, 1 trumpet, 1 first and second trombone, 1 bass trombone, 1  tuba, 1 kettledrum. These parts appear to be for the same section as that  treated as M-H 1/4-3. The preparation of these orchestral parts lends weight to  the argument that they may have been used for the 1888 performance by Henschel  at the Popular Concerts in London. Equally they may have been prepared for a  Melbourne concert.

See  also:A Harold Overture’ M-H 2/3‑1  included in the orchestral works listings. This full score is headed ‘founded  upon the music drama by G.W.L. Marshall‑Hall.’

Contemporary Reviews

  1. Musical Times - 1 March 1888


    “London  Symphony Concerts,” Musical Times 1  March 1888, 150.

    "The time  is happily past when English composers could not gain a hearing for their  efforts on account of the national prejudice against music of home manufacture,  and Mr. Marshall Hall, who, we are told, has written three grand operas,  several overtures, a symphony, string quartets, and many other things, must be  counted exceptionally unfortunate. Until the Symphony Concert of the 2nd ult.  his name had never appeared in a concert programme. Whether Mr. Henschel’s  motive in giving him a place was genuine belief in his abilities or merely  artistic compassion, is of no consequence; a composition, or rather an excerpt  was submitted for judgment, and judgment must be passed upon it fairly and  without favour. It was called a Scena,  but it is really a baseless declamatory solo from an opera entitled “Harold,”  and is supposed to be delivered by Earl  Godwin when defending himself before the Witan in Westminster Hall. Here  there is an obvious anachronism, for Westminster Hall was not built until the  time of William Rufus; but that constitutes the least of Mr. Marshall Hall’s  offences. He has studied Wagner deeply, and apparently thinks that the most  advanced methods of the Bayreuth revolutionist should be adopted by a young  English composer. The voice part is most ungrateful to the singer, who,  moreover, has to contend against a mass of surging, furious orchestration. One  theme of a rhythmical character appears, but is so tortured by its harmonic  surroundings that its effect is lost. But beneath all this extravagance we  discerned signs of genuine power, and if Mr. Marshall Hall will realise that he  has commenced at the wrong end he may yet do honour to English art. Mr. Santley  did everything that was possible with his piece, and a sympathetic audience  received it kindly."

  2. Age - 12 March 1891


    “The  Victorian Orchestra,” Age 13 March  1891, 6.

    “[Marshall-Hall’s]  overture from Harold, produced under his direction last night, is plainly the  work of a man who has something to say, and who knows how to say it. Many parts  of it strike one, even on a first hearing, as being both clever and original,  while the whole composition is most interesting, and the orchestration always  effective. It would be presumptuous on so slight a knowledge of the overture as  can be gleaned by listening to a single performance to attempt to criticise in  detail a work which evidently needs to be thoroughly known if it is to be duly  comprehended, and therefore nothing need be added to the above remarks, save  that the professor would be conferring a favor upon the habitués of these concerts by affording them an opportunity of  becoming better acquainted with his Harold overture. At the conclusion of the  work the composer was warmly recalled to the platform.”

  3. Australasian - 14th March 1891

    “Music,” Australasian 14 March 1891, 503.

    “Professor  Marshall Hall made his first appearance on a Melbourne concert platform on this  occasion, when he conducted an overture to a musical drama of his own  composition, entitled “Harold.” The overture proves beyond doubt that the  author has been a disciple of Wagner, whose scores he has heard and studied to  advantage. Without closely criticising such a work after a single hearing, it  may be said at once that it created a decidedly favourable impression, as the  work of a musician who had all his heart in his work, and does not do things by  halves. Another opportunity of hearing it will be welcome. Professor Hall  conducted the overture with an energy and enthusiasm that surely fails to  become contagious amongst the members of the orchestra; at the conclusion he  was recalled.”