Children's and Liturgical Opera Company, LLC





a Christmas opera for adults and children 
based on the traditional Italian fairy tale
music and libretto by Susan Hulsman Bingham


*Special Commendation, Vienna Masterworks
2003 Nancy Van deVate International Opera Competition

Old Befana poster design: Susan Bingham




(Sop (3), alto (3), tenor (3), treble choir (up to 16 singers), adult SATB chorus (two on a part
sufficient); some non-singing parts. Parts that may be doubled are marked below with an asterisk (*).
Weary Traveler* tenor
Old Befana soprano
Small group of Children trebles
Neighbor Woman #1 soprano
Neighbor Woman #2 soprano
Neighbor Women soprano, mezzo soprano
Three Magi* low tenor
Angels trebles or sopranos
Young Mother #1 soprano
Young Mother #2


Shepherd low tenor
Accompaniment Piano, organ, percussion; can be done with piano alone. An unpolished orchestral score for 16 pieces exists but has not been used; there is also a piano/organ version.
CHORUS treble choir (acting and in costume) and SATB choir (can be small)
Dance None or optional
Props Biblical times, homespun. Can be done with very few props.
Souce of Text traditional Italian fairy tale
Language English
Musical Style Melodic, tonal, lyrical, with seasonal "feel"
Scenes One act without breaks
Duration approximately 60 minutes
Premier Feast of the Epiphany, Sunday, January 6, 1991 at Christ Church Parish, New Haven, CT, USA. Original production directed by Jeanne Bartlett Kerr and with lighting design by William B. Warfel.
Click here to hear David Finley, Geoff Gilchrist, and Fernando Mancillas, tenors, as the Magi.
Click here to hear a sound clip of Old Befana, sung by Judith Caldwell, soprano



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Theme: the Christ is to be found in everyone. The need to be open to change.

Synopsis: The time is shortly after the birth of Christ. A lonely old widow grieves over her lost husband and infant daughter, making her cottage the focus of all her attention. Children make fun of her, and neighbors, unable to lure her into friendship, mock her.

The lonely Befana sings a lullaby to a straw doll and goes to bed. On this cold winter night, three Magi arrive at her cottage to ask directions to Bethlehem, over which a bright star shines. Befana is startled by their beauty but cannot understand their language, so she turns them away. The Magi depart and their song is accompanied by the voices of Angels. Though stirred, Befana returns to bed. However, she cannot sleep and takes up the straw doll again. Her singing is overheard by a shepherd.

Despite herself, Befana lets the shepherd in. He tells her about the star and quotes the Prophets about the coming of a Messiah, but Befana makes her usual excuses. At a loss, the shepherd asks her about the straw doll, and she vehemently defends her privacy. Regretting that he has offended her, the shepherd sings Befana a farewell blessing and leaves. Alone in her cottage, Befana returns the blessing.

Old Befana then wonders if she should have gone with the shepherd. She leaves the cottage, is momentarily distracted by her littered sidewalk, which she sweeps, and then, transfixed by the ever louder song of angels, she hobbles in the direction of the star.

Old Befana's hobble becomes a walk, then the walk becomes a run. Soon she is flying. Angels surround her and repeat the prophesies. Out of the profound darkness and silence that follows, she hears the song of a young mother far below, singing to her infant. "This must be the Christ child!" she thinks. She descends to earth and sings a reverent hymn of greeting to the child. As her song ends, she hears another mother singing to her child. Then another. . .

According to legend, Old Befana never found the Christ Child. But in her search for Him, she comes to the bedsides of infants and children each year at Epiphany. She sees the Christ child in everyone.



David Finley, tenor, as one of the Magi in Old Befana

Photo: Jennifer Lester

Poster of the performance of OLD BEFANA
performed at St. Martin's College, Malta, December, 2001.
Poster design: Marika Porteli

* * *

Price of one bound and one single-sided piano/vocal/percussion score of "Old Befana": $150.
Price includes shipping within the United States. Performance rights and permission to make
sufficient copies of the score for cast members and accompanists for one season are included.


Old Befana downloadable PDF file of piano/vocal score: $75


"Old Befana" downloadable PDF files of orchestration and parts: $150. If you are interested
in purchasing a hard copy of parts and conductor score, please contact us.


"Old Befana" may be seen without charge on YouTube, so we areno longer selling DVDs
and CDs. Until we figure out how to create a clickable link on this web page,
kindly copy and paste the following link into your browser:


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