The Nightingale and the Rose

A tale of love, devotion, sacrifice and tragedy, Oscar Wilde’s classic children’s-story follows the story of a Nightingale, who’s only wish is to bring beauty and love into the world, even for the ultimate cost.


The Gate Cardiff, Summer 2010

Further performances

Gloucester Cathedral (Spring 2011)

The Gate (Cardiff, Summer 2011)

The Richard Burton Theatre (Cardiff, 2011)

Creative Team

Composer/conductor: Tom Floyd

Librettist: David Spittle

Director: Deborah Cohen

Designer: Vicki Male

Prologue – The Oak Tree (a sort of narrator character) sets the scene explaining how The Student has fallen in love with the beautiful daughter of the professor. She has promised to go to the dance with him if brings her a red rose.

Scene 1 – The Student excitedly sings about the dance but his mood quickly darkens when we realises his garden has no red roses. He pictures the girl in the arms of another and gets increasingly depressed. A Nightingale flying by hears his laments and being touched by his plight she vows to help find him a rose (The Student cannot understand her song).

Scene 2 – The Nightingale goes on her quest and comes across a lizard. Asking if he’s scene a red rose the lizard laughs at her and tells her that her quest is a foolish one. She tries to convince him that true love is worth fighting for but the lizard refuses to listen, instead bitterly telling her no-good will come of it.

Scene 3 – The Nightingale’s search continues and eventually she finds a rose bush, but it only grows white roses. The White Rose laments its colourless roses, The Nightingale tries to cheer the White Rose but it remains gloomy. She flies on and discovers another rose bush but this one only grows yellow roses. The Yellow Rose comes suddenly to life and excitedly tells the Nightingale how yellow is the most vibrant and brilliant colour, the colour of gold and the sun etc. The Nightingale explains it’s a red rose she needs, eventually the Yellow Rose points towards a water fountain and says she might try her luck there. Finally the Nightingale finds a red rose bush, but the bush tells her that the cold winds have chilled its veins and that she has no roses. The Nightingale pleads with her and eventually the Red Rose explains there is one way she can grow a rose, if The Nightingale comes back at midnight and sings her sweetest song as she presses her heart against the rose bushes thorn it will feed a Red Rose. The Nightingale is scared and flies away to consider her situation.

Scene 4 – The Nightingale watches the Student through his window. She sings a comforting song, explaining that he will soon have his rose. The Student, still depressed, watches the bird with contempt, philosophising that beauty and art brings nothing to life and are in fact selfish empty things.

Scene 5 – The Nightingale returns to the Red Rose tree at night. She begins to sing her sweetest song and the thorn presses against her breast. The Nightingale’s song reaches a climax and a blood red rose appears. As it does so, the Nightingale slumps to the ground.

Scene 6 – The scene opens with the Student looking out o his Window and noticing the red rose on the ground. He excitedly picks it up and rushes off to take it to her lady. The professor’s daughter is getting ready for the dance. She sings about the dance, how the men will desire her and how she holds power over them. She then sings of how silly men are, although they have their uses… mid- song the Student bursts into the room, red rose in hand. He shows her the rose and says how they can now dance together at the ball. The girl looks at the rose and laughs. She tells the Student how the chamberlain’s nephew has brought her diamonds, far prettier than a rose. She gets increasingly irritated by the Student, saying the rose is too red, blood red and that it would clash with her dress. She takes the rose and rips it p, commanding the student to leave. He does so and sings a final song about how worthless love is, and how he will never be so foolish again and instead dedicate his efforts to study. As he emotionally leaves the Nightingale’s song is heard in the distance.