Havergal Brian: The Cenci

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The Cenci (1951–52) is Havergal Brian’s operatic realisation of Shelley’s gruesome tale of incest and parricide in Renaissance Italy. The score calls it simply ‘Opera in Eight Scenes’, but it rarely goes in for grand tunes; instead, its dark colours reflect Shelley’s fascination with the struggle between good and evil. Stylistically, it is an unusual but highly effective hybrid: a music-drama focused on the intense delivery of Shelley’s text, with the declamatory style of the vocal lines echoing such recent oratorios as Stravinsky’s Oedipus Rex and Honegger’s Jeanne d’Arc au bûcher, and the freewheeling orchestral writing producing something of a vocal symphony.

Helen Field, soprano
David Wilson-Johnson, baritone
Ingveldur Ýr Jónsdóttir, contralto
Stuart Kale, tenor
Justin Lavender, tenor
Jeffery Carl, baritone
Nicholas Buxton, tenor
Devon Harrison, bass
Serena Kay, soprano
The Millennium Sinfonia
James Kelleher, conductor

Listen To This Recording:

The Cenci

  1. Overture (Preludio Tragico) (13:57)
  2. Scene 1: An apartment in the Cenci palace, Rome (8:48)
  3. Scene 2: A Garden of the Cenci palace, Rome (7:45)
  4. Scene 3: A magnificent hall in the Cenci palace, Rome: A banque (10:26)
  5. Scene 4: An apartment in the Castle of Petrella (among the Apulian Apennines) (13:17)


  1. Scene 5: Before the Castle of Petrella (15:59)
  2. Scene 6: An apartment in Orsino’s palace, Rome (6:16)
  3. Scene 7: The Hall of Justice, Rome (9:55)
  4. Scene 8: A hall of the prison (15:05)


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