05 Oct 2020

Synopsis of Gentleman’s Island

by Michael Clive

Gentleman’s Island
Comic Opera in Two Acts
Music by Joseph Horovitz (b. 1926)
Libretto by Gordon Snell (b. “estimated between 1909 and 1969”)

Mr. Gray and Mr. Somers, both proper Englishmen, have survived a shipwreck and find themselves on the same desert island. Since they have not been formally introduced, conversing is not an option; however, listening to each other as they alternately think aloud, the two men discover a mutual acquaintance: a certain Mr. Robinson.

Even in a population of two, it seems, inequality of wealth can give rise to social unrest. Abiding by certain territorial boundaries on their island home, Mr. Gray and Mr. Somers are subject to unequal distribution of food resources. At length, they agree that the demands of formal etiquette have been satisfied — after all, they do both know Mr. Robinson — and decide to cooperate.

After some months of this social routine, Mr. Robinson arrives at the island as leader of a mission to rescue Mssrs. Gray and Somers. But when it becomes clear that the rescue party is comprised of convicts, the two men decline to be rescued. To accept such help, they feel, would be socially unacceptable; in fact, in light of Mr. Robinson’s criminal social status, Gray and Somers prefer to reject their past association with Robinson altogether. Instead, they determine to live in the respective territories of the island that has become home — and will eventually be their grave.