Paul Corfield Godfrey's "The Nightingale and the Rose, The Sphinx & Hymnus Mysticus" Demo Recording

The year 2020 is a special one for Paul Corfield Godfrey: his 70th Birthday.  As a surprise present, in and around our recording work on the "Silmarillion" cycle, ourselves and our amazing group of singers secretly set to recording Paul's opera of "The Nightingale and the Rose", after the short story by Oscar Wilde, which he composed in 1976.  The idea was to have the recording basically complete and to publicly announce the recording at the launch event of "The Children of Hurin" in April 2020  and then work on finishing it up to be out in time for his birthday in October.  The world conspired against us on this, the social isolations and lockdowns that have been necessary how now delayed us.  Just as we were realising that the lockdowns were imminent we put together a disc for Paul, with about 50% of the voices in, and gave it to him.  His reaction to receiving it was wonderful and we are now happy to say that as soon as we can we will be getting back to recording it.

A bonus of the added time though is that due to the piece being quite short, at 45 minutes, we had time to consider which other of Paul's smaller scale works we could be companions to "Nightingale" for the release.  This brought to light another setting of Oscar Wilde, "The Sphinx", and a setting of Aleister Crowley, "Hymnus Mysticus".

The Pieces

Names of participants added after recording.


Cast (in order of singing):

The Student (Tenor): Simon Crosby Buttle

The Nightingale (Soprano): Angharad Morgan

The Green Lizard/The Yellow Rose Tree (Baritone): Julian Boyce

The Butterfly/The White Rose Tree (Mezzo): Helen Greenaway

The Daisy/The Red Rose Tree (Bass): 

The Beloved: Sophie Yelland

Chorus: Emma Mary Llewellyn/Sophie Yelland/Helen Greenaway/Simon Crosby Buttle/Julian Boyce/Jasey Hall


Baritone Solo: Julian Boyce

Chorus: Simon Crosby Buttle/Julian Boyce


Soprano Solo:

Baritone Solo: Julian Boyce

Chorus: Simon Crosby Buttle/Julian Boyce

For more information and analysis please visit the composer's website (link at the bottom of this page)

The Libretto


A great mysterious garden shrouded in many shadows. It is dusk: deep, silent dusk. To the left, a great holm oak, deep myrtle green, soars into the sky. Towards the right a sundial, with a rose tree behind it. On the extreme right, the walls of the house whence opens a large window. Another rose tree stands towards the left, under the shadow of the holm; but the largest and most mysterious rose tree lies across the back of the stage like a great spreading portent of ill fate. On the grass beneath the holm oak the Student is discerned, lying with his head in his hands so that it seems that he sleeps; but then he stirs, and his eyes fill with tears


She said that she would dance with me if I brought her red roses; but in all my garden there is no red rose. No red rose in all my garden! Ah, on what little things does happiness depend!

I have read all that the wise men have written, and all the secrets of philosophy are mine;

yet for want of a red rose is my life made wretched.

The NIGHTINGALE [from her nest in the holm, wonderingly to herself]

Here, at last, is the true lover! Night after night have I sung of him, though I knew him not;

night after night have I told his story to the stars, and now I see him.

His hair is dark as the hyacinth, and his lips are red as the rose of his desire;

but passion has made his face like pale ivory, and sorrow has set her mark upon his brow.


The Prince gives a ball tomorrow night, and my love will be of the company.

If I bring her a red rose, she will dance with me till dawn.

If I bring her a red rose, then I will hold her in my arms, and she will lean her head upon my shoulder,

and her hand will be clasped in mine.

But there is no red rose in my garden, so I shall sit lonely, and she will pass me by.

She will have no heed of me, and my heart shall break.


Here, indeed, is the true lover! What I sing, he suffers; what to me is joy, to him is pain.

It is more precious than emeralds, and dearer than fine opals,

Pearls and pomegranates cannot buy it, nor is it set forth in the market place.

It may not be purchased of the merchants, nor is it weighted out in the balance for gold.


The musicians will sit in their balcony, and play upon their stringed instruments,

and my love will dance to the sound of the harp and the violin.

She will dance so lightly that her feet will not touch the floor, and the courtiers in their gay dresses will throng about her.

But with me she will not dance, for I have no red rose to give her!


Why is he crying?


Why indeed?


Why indeed?


He is weeping for a red rose.


For a red rose? How very ridiculous!


Ha! ha! ha! ha! ha!

The Student has slowly subsided weeping upon the grass once more, and remains still. Night begins to fall ever more deeply over the garden. The Nightingale spreads her wings and  flies forth from the holm over the garden, lighting upon the tree beneath the oak



Give me a red rose; and I will sing you my sweetest song.


My roses are white, as white as the foam of the sea, and whiter than the snow upon the mountain.

But go to my brother who grows round the old sundial, and perhaps he will give you what you want.

So the Nightingale flies to the rose that grows by the sundial


Give me a red rose; and I will sing you my sweetest song.


My roses are yellow, as yellow as the hair of the mermaid as she sits upon an amber throne,

and yellower than the daffodil that blooms in the meadow before the mower comes with his scythe.

But go to my brother who grows beneath the Student’s window, and perhaps he will give you what you want.

So the Nightingale flies to the great tree: the grey, mysterious and ominous tree beneath the window of the house at the back of the stage



Give me a red rose; and I will sing you my sweetest song.


My roses are red, as red as the feet of the dove, and redder than the great corals that wave and wave in the ocean cavern.

But the winter has chilled my veins, and the frost has nipped my buds,

and the storm has broken my branches, and I shall have no roses at all this year.


One rose is all I want, one red rose! Is there no way by which I can get it?


There is a way; but it is so terrible that I dare not tell it to you.


Tell it to me; I am not afraid.


If you want a red rose, you must build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with your own heart’s blood.

You must sing to me with your breast against a thorn.

All night long you must sing to me, and your life-blood will flow into my veins, and become mine.


Death is a great price to pay for a red rose; and Life is very sweet to all.

It is pleasant to sit in the green wood, and to watch the sun in his chariot of gold, and the moon in her chariot of pearl.

Sweet is the scent of the hawthorn, and sweet are the bluebells that hide in the valley, and the heather that blows on the hill.

Yet Love is greater than Life, and what is heart of a nightingale compared to the heart of a man?

She flies soaring into the air, and sweeps over the garden like a shadow. When she reaches the oak, she stands high above the Student

Be happy, be happy; you shall have your red rose. 

I will build it out of music by moonlight, and stain it with my own heart’s blood.

All that I ask is that you will be a true lover, for Love is wiser than Philosophy,

though he is wise; and mightier than Power, though he is mighty.

Flame-coloured are his wings, and coloured like flame is his body. His lips are sweet as honey, and his breath is like frankincense.

The STUDENT [looks uncomprehendingly up into the branches]

She has form, that cannot be denied to her; but has she got feeling? I am afraid not.

In fact, she is like most artists; she is all style without any sincerity. She would not sacrifice herself for others.

She thinks only of music, and everybody knows that the arts are selfish.

Still, it must be admitted that she has some beautiful notes in her voice.

What a pity it is that they do not mean anything, or do any practical good!

He has risen and walked slowly towards the house, and now he goes in. Silence descends upon the night and upon the garden


The Moon shines ever more brightly in the Heavens; and the Nightingale flies to the Rose Tree,

and sets her breast against the thorn; and the cold crystal stars lean down and listen.

And she sings first of the birth of love in the heart of a boy and a girl.

A vision appears in the centre of the garden: a naked youth and maiden who walk through the garden with graceful movements.

Tenderly they embrace one another with tentative movements, then more passionate embraces: they slowly disappear into the darkness once more

And slowly a rose begins to blossom; pale at first, as the mist that hangs over the river,

pale as the wings of the morning, and silver as the feet of the dawn,

pale as the shadow of a rose in a mirror of silver, as the shadow of the rose upon a water pool.



Press closer, little Nightingale! or the Day will come before the Rose is finished.



And so the Nightingale presses closer against the thorn,

and her song grows louder as she sings of the birth of passion in the soul of a man and maid.

The two ideal lovers appear once again, embracing tenderly as before, and once more vanish into the night

And a flush of pink comes into the leaves of the rose, like the flush on the face of the Bridegroom when he kisses the lips of the Bride.



Press closer, little Nightingale! or the Day will come before the Rose is finished.



And so the Nightingale presses closer against the thorn, and the thorn touches her heart, and a fierce pang of pain shoots through her. Bitter, bitter is the pain, and wilder, wilder grows her song,

for she sings of the Love that is perfected by Death, of the Love that dies not in the tomb.

The ideal lovers again appear; this time the man supports the woman with his arm. A red light falls on the scene; the woman falls into the man’s arms. He bears her to the ground, and there lies with her

And the rose becomes crimson, like the rose of the crimson sky, like the ruby crimson of the heart.

Red light floods the scene, tinting the rose crimson; the two lovers appear to sink into the earth

But the Nightingale’s voice grows fainter, and her wings begin to beat, and a film comes over her eyes.

Fainter and fainter grows her song, as it were something choking her in the throat. Then she gives one last burst of music.

Increasing moonlight 

The white Moon heareth it, and she forgets the dawn, and lingers on in the sky.

The red rose heareth it, and it trembles all over with ecstasy, and opens its petals to the cold morning air.

Echo beareth it to the purple caverns in the hills, and wakes the sleeping shepherds from their dreams.

It floateth through the reeds of the river, and they bear its message to the sea.



Look! look! the rose is finished now!


The Nightingale falls to the ground


But the Nightingale lies dead in the long grass, and the thorn is in her heart.


Stillness and darkness envelop the scene. Day begins to dawn. The sun rises. The morning light shines into the garden, illuminating all with a silver radiance. And the rose too seems to glow, shedding forth a light of its own

The STUDENT [opens his window]

Why, what a wonderful piece of luck! Here is a red rose! I have never seen any rose like it in my life!

It is so beautiful that I am sure it has a long Latin name.

He comes forth from the house, and steps down to the rose; and reverently he plucks it. The Beloved enters the garden

You said that you would dance with me if I brought you a red rose! Here is the reddest rose in all the world.

You will wear it tonight next your heart, and as we dance together it will tell you how I love you.

The BELOVED [frowns]

I am afraid it will not go with my dress.

And besides, the Chamberlain’s nephew has sent me some real jewels, and everybody knows that jewels cost far more than flowers.



Well, upon my soul, you are very ungrateful!

And he throws the rose down upon the ground, quite faded and its radiance extinguished


Ungrateful! I tell you what, you are very rude; and after all, who are you?

Only a student. Why, I don’t believe you have even got silver buckles to your shoes as the Chamberlain’s nephew has!

She turns on him in fury, and stamps viciously on the rose, grinding it into the dust with her heel. Then she turns her back on him and strides rapidly out. The Student stands stock still, as if turned to stone. There is a long silence


What a silly thing Love is!

It is not half as useful as Logic, for it does not prove anything,

and it is always telling one of things that are not going to happen, and making one believe things that are not true.

In fact, it is quite unpractical, and as in this age to be practical is everything I shall go back to Philosophy and study Metaphysics.

He returns back into the house. The garden glows in the daylight: but the rose has quite faded, and the Nightingale is invisible in the grass

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)




Away to Egypt! Only one God has ever died.

Only one God has let his side be wounded by a soldier’s spear.

But these, thy lovers, are not dead. Still by the hundred cubit gate

dog-faced Anubis sits in state with lotus lilies for thy head.

Still from his chair of porphyry gaunt Memnon strains his lidless eyes,

and cries each yellow morning unto thee.

And Nilus with his broken horn lies in his black and oozy bed

and till thy coming will not spread his waters on the withering corn.

Your lovers are not dead, I know. They will rise up, and hear your voice

and clash their cymbals and rejoice and run to kiss thy mouth!  And so,

set wings upon your argosies! Set horses to your ebon car!

Back to your Nile! or if you are grown sick of dead divinities

follow some roving lion’s spoor across the copper-coloured plain,

reach out and hale him by the mane and bid him be your paramour!

Couch by his side upon the grass and set your white teeth in his throat

and when you hear his dying note lash your long flanks of polished brass,

and take a tiger for your mate, whose amber sides are flecked with black,

and ride upon his gilded back in triumph through the Theban Gate,

and toy with him in amorous jests, and when he turns, and snarls, and gnaws,

O smite him with your jasper claws! and bruise him with your agate breasts!

OSCAR WILDE (1854-1900)




Soprano solo and chorus

Mightiest self! Supreme in self-contentment!

palpable, formless, infinite presentment of thine own light in thine own soul’s eclipse!

Let thy chaste lips sweep through the aether guarding thee,

touch, draw me with thy kiss into thine own deep bliss,

into thy sleep, thy life, thine imperishable crown.


Baritone solo

All things which are complete and solitary;

the circling moon, the inconsistent drift of stars,

the central systems. Burn they, change they, vary?

Theirs is no motion beyond the eternal bars.

Solitary are the winter woods and caves not habited,

and O! most lone the melancholy mountain shrine and throne,

where far above all things God sits, the ultimate alone.


Soprano solo and chorus

O soul of tears! for never has fallen like dew thy word,

nor is thy shape showed, nor as wisdom’s heard

thy crying about the city,

in the home where is no pity,

but in the desolate halls and desolate vales of sand.


Baritone solo and chorus

I sate upon the mossy promontory,

where the cascade cleft not his mother rock,

but swept in whirlwind lightning foam and glory

to lure and lock marvellous eddies in its wild caress;

all earth took up the sound,

being in one tune securely bound,

even as a star, became the soul of silence most profound.


Soprano solo and chorus

Where thou has trodden, I have trod!

I have no fear to tread thy far irremeable way,

beyond the paths and palaces of day,

beyond the night, beyond the skies,

beyond Eternity’s tremendous gate,

beyond the immanent miracle.

Soloists and chorus

O secret self of things!

I have not feet nor wings

except to follow far beyond Heaven and Earth and Hell,

until I fix my mood, and being in thee,

I grow the thing I contemplate: that selfsame solitude.


Demo Recording Information

The recording is being produced using Reaper software and is utilising the Eastwest Software/Quantum Leap Symphonic Orchestra sampled instruments.

The main parts will all be recorded using different professional singers with some doubling.

The Chorus will be recorded two per voice part which would accommodate the splits in the parts.  Each of these voices, due to the limited space and equipment, is recorded individually and post processed to fit with the others.  This is the method we use when creating learning tracks for choirs, as it gives us the opportunity to isolate parts and fix problems without having to have everyone back to re-record.

  • Facebook Social Icon