Green Branch

Last updated   January 2016    Copyright © Green Branch 2004 - 2016

Home Operas/Plays Productions Links

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Composer: Tim Porter. Folk Opera,1971

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is based on the fine fourteenth-century poem of the same name. One New Year’s day, a huge knight clad in green comes to Arthur’s court and challenges anyone present to cut off his head, and then, a year and day hence, to submit to his return blow. A strange game, but one which makes for great entertainment and a splendid climax. The music is in folk idiom, a country dance band provides rhuthm and vitality. The style of presentation relies on spontaneity and direct involvement of the audience. If any opera can appeal to all ages and types of people and destroy the conventional image of opera, this will!

Author's note:

All sorts of undercurrents run artlessly concealed in the traditional tale of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Beneath its mirthful exterior, roots reach deep into Celtic myth. Irishmen will recognise it as an incident in the ancient saga of Cuchullain. The form in which it is best known, however, is a fourteenth century English poem, which treats it with remarkable imagination, and adds to it the element of "courtly love", as obligatory to the mediaeval storyteller as the "love interest" to a modern film-maker!

This version attempts to combine the flavour of the mediaeval romance with that of the basic myth, so that we sense the mysteries of the seasons and rebirth at work within the lively tale. The way in which I have tried to do this is by presenting the action through the efforts of a band of wandering players, people who because of their closeness to the soil cannot help bringing out the essential qualities of the story. This they do with their dances and songs.

Tim Porter

Cast list

Sir Gawain
Green Knight
Sir Bertilak
Lady Bertilak
First Wassailler


1 flute
1 oboe
1 clarinet
1 bassoon
2 percussion
1 violin
1 viola
1 cello
country dance band

Note: originally the piece was written for a much larger orchestra.


1971: Okehampton, in a form with fuller orchestra.
1974: Tour, England
1976/7: Tour, England
1977/8: Tour, England
1978/9: Tour, England
1984: Folk House, Bristol
1986: Tour, Germany, England