Letter from Ralph Vaughan Williams to Evelyn Sharp

Letter No.: 
January 31 [1937].

From R. Vaughan Williams,
The White Gates,
Westcott Road,

Dear Evelyn Sharp

If we cut the journalists in Act 2 we ought to put back the Hobs trio at the beginning of the act.  Also we ought certainly to put back ‘Love in a hut’ which clenches the scene musically.  Of course we really ought to have had an unaccompanied madrigal à la Gilbert & Sullivan there.1
Also I want to suggest that the duet for Angelica and Galanthus should come after the Hobs & Mediums sextet – The sextet is much the best ensemble in the whole work, but the popularity of the duet makes an anticlimax of it and I think it would add to the fun if the duet took place with the Hobs & mediums lying around in undignified attitudes.
Then the Empress’s strictures about night clubs will of course apply to Ang: and Gal: as well.
I didn’t mean to write so long a letter as this – but somehow it grew –2

R Vaughan Williams

1.  Evelyn Sharp had written to Hubert Foss at the Oxford University Press on 30th January: I have sent Dr Vaughan-Williams a clean copy of the cut version of THE POISONED KISS, with one or two alterations that he and I practically agreed upon after the Cambridge production  (the only considerable change being the elimination of the journalists’ episode in Act II and the re-instatement of the Quartet “Love in a Hut” in Act III, with the slight consequential changes).  I don’t think any of these alterations will affect the music, but of course the composer may wish still further changes before the Bristol people start rehearsing, even if he approves of my/changes.  So I must wait until I hear from him before sending the typescript to Mr Percival as I promised, and am writing to Mr Percival to explain why I am keeping him waiting.  Is that all right?  I hope Dr Vaughan-Williams will let me know soon whether he approves or not.  Directly I hear from him, and unless he wants the thing changed again, I will send you a copy of the acting version as well as to Mr Percival.  It seems to me important to have a version that can be used when cuts are required – as it seems they always will be! (British Library MS Mus.161, f.115)
2.  Sharp responded the following day:
I have altered the line “Unaccomplished still” to
My father’s will
I can never fulfil.
Is that all right? The only objection to changing the order of the duet and sextet is that it does not give Angelica time to change into a wedding garment.  But we might wait for the production to raise that point; they may be glad to economise on wedding garments. I have taken out all the “nightmares” though marvelling more than ever at the things that will raise a laugh even in an intellectual audience – or perhaps, only in an intellectual audience. I have heard from “Joss” that his brother in Vienna is very regretfully returning the book of the Opera, which he has done his very best to get produced but “The Volksoper” “has filled its season with operettas and only once a week they had real  operas on their programme – a  scheme which was quite useful from a business point of view but contrary to progressive production as it had been imagined”. So that is that! (British Library MS Mus.161, f.117)
She wrote to Mr Percival (presumably producer of the proposed performance at Bristol) the same day:
Here is the cut version of the POISONED KISS, as we cut it for the Cambridge production and with some further alterations that occurred to us through that production.  Since writing to you yesterday I have heard from Dr Vaughan-Williams, who is writing to you himself about the changes in the music.  He wants me to draw your attention to certain alterations in the words of the songs on pp 10 and 14 in ACT III, in the acting version I am sending you herewith so that they should not be learnt in the wrong version.  He also suggests some slight alterations in the order of the songs in ACT III, with which I entirely agree if you do.  He is writing to you about these. I hope this is clear and that you will be able to go ahead without further delay.  Please write to me if there is anything further I can do. (British Library MS Mus.161, f.118)

Location of original letter:

Shelfmark of original letter: 
MS Mus. 161 , f.116
General notes: 

In the hand of AVW, signed by VW.

Original database number: