King Charles was not a bad man —
He had his little ways.
He’d chat to his geraniums,
For days and days and days.
And at his Coronation,
With music to the fore,

Twelve anthems, marches, fanfares, hymns,

A nod was made to every claque,

But opera failed to score.

(Apologia – A.A. Milne)

Shock, horror. Doffed caps to interest groups all round, but no opera! The Master of King’s Music, the esteemed Dame Judith Weir, has failed to write or commission an opera to mark Charles’ accession to the throne. His mum was given one in 1953. Benjamin Britten wrote Gloriana, about Good Queen Bess, making the point that the young Elizabeth II was heralding in a new Elizabethan Age.

The fact that on the gala night at Covent Garden Gloriana was deemed a bummer, is neither here nor there. It’s a fantastic piece of narrative history. That it was not appreciated on the night by the glitzy goons who were hoping for Gilbert and Sullivan was their loss.

A coronation IS opera, after all. And the opera repertoire is stuffed with coronations. This is an open letter to Dame Judith. It’s never too late. Here are some handy dos and don’ts.

Why not riff off Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea? L’incoronazione di Camilla would have a ring to it. There are some similarities. Poppea’s coronation was aimed at validating her status. Camilla Shand/Parker Bowles/Queen Consort is today being crowned simply as “Queen”. The dropping of “Consort” has been achieved almost by stealth. As if someone made a booboo with the Order of Service. Validation would be helpful.

I have no issue with her being crowned “Queen”. If it had not been for a bunch of purblind courtiers Charles would have been allowed to marry the love of his life from the start, instead of having to jump through a set of unwelcome marital, “Whatever ‘in love’ means”, hoops.

But, hold on a mo. Poppea was being crowned as Nero’s empress. Look, I am as delighted as anyone that our new monarch is open minded and strives to be “inclusive”. But slotting him with Nero might not go down too well with the Commonwealth. Monteverdi – off to Room 101.

Any contemporary, British composers with a track record of coronation operas? The Britten of today? Truth is, there is no-one of Britten’s stature on the current musical scene. But step up a possibility, Sir James Loy MacMillan, known as a highly sensitive composer of reflective religious works, who wrote Inés de Castro in 1996.

That’s about a coronation. The coronation of the Spanish mistress of Pedro, a Portuguese prince. It’s a bit of a stretch, but there is a potential read across. Except for the minor detail that Inés happens to be dead when Pedro eventually has her crowned. The coronation of a corpse. Perhaps taking inclusiveness too far.

Let’s put this in the “don’t” corner as well, but it is a hell of a story. Think The Exorcist meets The Shining. The plot, based on 12th century historical fact, is a belter. This opera should be back onstage, coronation or not.

Inés de Castro, the Spanish mistress of Pedro, heir to the Portuguese throne, is considered a threat to the security of the state. The courtiers didn’t like her. Pacheco, the Dominic Cummings of his day and king’s adviser, demands ruthless action to protect the crown, but the king vacillates. Inés pleads for her life and for her children. Blanca, the spurned wife of Pedro, insults Inés and gloats over her impending fall.

The king, an old softie, relents and allows the lovers to meet before Inés is banished. Their farewell is interrupted by Pacheco who blames Pedro’s blunders for turning the war to the enemy’s advantage. Inés implores Pedro not to abandon her, but he is determined to reverse his military fortunes.

The King blesses his son who leads the Portuguese army to war and – so it is thought – certain defeat. Inés is recognised by some Portuguese women and attacked for being an enemy whore. Blanca rescues her, only to express her bitter envy of Inés’s motherhood.

This bit borders on the politically incorrect. Pacheco delivers a bag containing the heads of Inés’ children. He hates all Spaniards. Interesting plea in mitigation. Inés is comforted by death, in the form of an old woman, who leads her away. Pedro, returning after unexpected victory, learns of the massacre of his family and turns on his father.

The king is visited by death, that old woman again, who leads him away too. The ordinary people sing of the king’s funeral and of the feast that is to celebrate the coronation of Pedro. Pacheco’s triumph has been short-lived, culminating in a grisly end.

Pedro, crowned alongside the exhumed corpse of Inés in queen’s regalia, taunts his subjects for their rejection of her. The ghost of Inés returns and speaks to the only person able to see her – an innocent girl.

Wow! Where did that come from? The opera was revived by Scottish Opera in 2015 in a concrete bunker, fascistic setting. I can’t do better than critic Fiona Maddocks, who wrote at the time. “By the end all the key characters are dead, the prince has gone mad and the exhumed skeleton of Inés is crowned queen, looking like a carnival monkey. I’ve heard some people say that MacMillan, known to be a Catholic traditionalist, is a bit soft for their taste. If this is soft, don’t show me hard.”

We should move on. Maybe extend the search to works which examine the trials of kingship. Verdi’s Macbeth? The Scottish Play set to music by the Italian composer is a bit of a downer, as is Otello. Mozart’s Il re pastore casts the king in the role of a shepherd, watching over his subjects by night. Maybe we are getting closer to the monarch who famously converses with wildlife.

The inconvenient truth is that a comprehensive scan of the operatic repertoire reveals that kingship is more often a burden than a pleasure, as I’m sure Charles after his long apprenticeship as Prince of Wales understands only too well.

If you value the institution of monarchy as I do – imagine the chore of writing an opera about the third term of President Blair – we should on this frabjous day take heart from the fact that Charles III stands far from the monarchical characters who strut the opera stage.

I recall from my days as Minister for Health – mid 1990s – the horror of the Civil Service when the heir to the throne had the temerity to write a letter, asking a perfectly sensible question about homeopathic health care and whether we funded it.

The letter was passed around the department from official to official like an unexploded bomb. Maybe a perfunctory official reply would be least controversial. Rather intrigued that the king to-be was bothering to take an interest in the grit of government policy at all, I insisted on replying myself.

To my astonishment, this resulted in a private lunch at which Charles revealed a comprehensive knowledge of his subject and a determination to stand up for this Cinderella of the NHS. His views on architecture are better known. But his determination to be properly informed of matters of state, learnt at the feet of his mother, covered all departmental policies.

There was a savvy sense about the man, that he knew he could never really win. Talk to plants – many people do – bonkers! Interested in homeopathic medicine – health care nutter. Build new villages of great beauty – boring old carbuncle-hating traditionalist.

Above all, Charles III is striving for reconciliation with his coronation musical hat tips to every community under his sun. Some say it is dumbing down, but every coronation has elements which reflect the era. It has always been an evolving ceremony.

And what better opera to encapsulate that noble ambition of Charles III than Handel’s Tolomeo, the 108 BC ruler who eventually achieves concord in a fractured Egyptian society. Vivat Rex! Vivat Handel! Best allow L’incoronazione di Camilla to remain a crazed fantasy.

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