The Butterfly’s Spell


Chamber Opera after the play El maleficio de la mariposa by Federico Garcia Lorca 


for 7 singers and 7 instrumentalists     70’       2017   (awaiting production)



The Butterfly’s Spell is a chamber opera based on an early play by Federico Garcia Lorca. An expressionist or symbolist drama arising from the writer’s identity issues, it depicts the world of insects - giving fine opportunities for exotic costumes and staging.  It tells how a Poet Beetle rejects the love of the devoted Sylvia in favour of an impossible infatuation with a fragile Butterfly whose destiny it is to fly away, leaving the Poet to die of a broken heart. A sad tale, but a comic opera which also features a drunken Scorpion, an overbearing Mother and Two Fireflies which glow in the dark. Suitable for all ages.


Duration: 70 minutes  (Act 1 - 40 minutes, Act 2 - 30 minutes, interval optional)







Sylvia, a young lady beetle & The Butterfly - soprano (& dancer) 

Two Young Fireflies, girl & boy    - soprano & mezzo-soprano            

Mother Beetle, an elderly lady - contralto

The Poet Beetle, Mother Beetle’s son - tenor

Doctor Cockroach, healer and teacher - baritone

The Old Scorpion, a forester - bass



Violin, viola, cello, flute (+ piccolo, alto flute), bassoon, marimba, harp


Text and adaptation © Edward Lambert 2017. The author's rights are asserted.




The philosophising Doctor tells the audience how he once heard a tale about a young Poet Beetle who fell in love with a Butterfly and came to a sorry end. As the stage is transformed into the insects' village and the sun rises in a brilliant dawn, he meets the Poet's Mother to whom he expresses some foreboding at the signs he has seen. He makes his way home and the Mother goes about her chores, while Two Young Fireflies introduce Sylvia, a wealthy young lady who is threatening to drown herself for love. The Mother knows full well that the object of her infatuation is her son, the Poet, and when he enters she resolves to see the couple married. He, however, is pre-occupied with writing a poem and takes no notice. There follows a lively trio. When the young pair is finally left alone, he cannot bring himself to propose and Sylvia departs broken-hearted.


In the heat of the day, the Old Scorpion enters the scene. He is rough and rude and constantly drunk. He teases and chases the young Fireflies, who are rescued when the Mother rushes in, brandishing her broom. Just at that moment, an injured Butterfly is brought in (played by the same singer as Sylvia). Everyone gathers round, concerned for her fate and awe-struck by her beauty. Her wounds are tended to, and she sings of strange things in far-off places. It quickly becomes obvious that the Poet has fallen deeply in love with her. The act ends in fear and sorrow as the sun sets.


By way of an interlude, the insects relax in the cool of the evening singing Lorca’s famous ballad about the moon who, disguised as a woman, came  to the gypsy's forge and abducted a young lad. 


The Doctor resumes the story. The Butterfly is brought to a forest clearing bathed in moonlight which will help cure her wounds. Her song becomes more melodious as she recovers and the glowing Fireflies - who drink sweet dew-drops and sing of love - appear in her dreams. The Poet enters, filled with longing for the beautiful Butterfly and for a few moments their voices intertwine. They know, however, that her destiny is to fly away. 


The Scorpion is now hungry and, coming across the Butterfly, decides to make her into a tasty meal. The Poet protects her, but the Scorpion's tail lashes out at him and he is stung by its deadly venom. The Mother’s stick prevents further catastrophe, but she is too late to save her son who dies as the dawn breaks and the Butterfly takes flight. As the Fireflies cover the Poet in rose petals, the cast reminds us that the Poet's songs will live forever.