RIDERS TO THE SEA, by Ralph Vaughan Williams,
adapted from the play by John Millington Synge
Sonoma State University Spring 2013
Program Notes and Study Guide
By Lauren Dillier, SSU Theatre Arts Minor; Riders to the Sea Dramaturg
This brief synopsis reviews the plot and characters of the opera.
- Discussion Questions
Instructors can use these questions to prompt discussion either before or after seeing the show.
- Brief biography of John Millington Synge, (PDF) playwright of the original stage play of
Riders to the Sea John Millington Synge (1871-1909) was one of Ireland's greatest writers. He wrote the play Riders to the Sea in 1903, and it would later become the source text for Ralph Vaughan Williams's opera adaptation. This link offers a brief biography.
- Brief biographyof Ralph Vaughan Williams , the composer who adapted Synge’s play into an opera. Ralph (pronounced "Rafe") Vaughan Williams (1872-1958) was one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century. This link offers a brief biography.
- The “Lost Generation” of WWI and its connection to Riders from the Sea (PDF)
When Vaughan Williams decided to adapt Synge's Riders to the Sea into an opera, he was inspired in part by the horrors he had seen in World War I, a war which deciminated the young men of Europe, who became known afterwards as a "lost generation." This article discusses the effects of the "lost generation" on the women they left behind.
- Irish Folklore in Riders to the Sea (PDF)
Riders to the Sea is steeped in the folk traditions of Irish folklore. What is the relationship between red cloth and death? Why is significance of a ghost of a horse? This article gives you access to the powerful lore of an ancient culture.
- Ghosts in Society and Culture (PDF)
This article reviews the significance of ghosts across societies -- culturally, psychically, and historically.
- The Aran Islands – Photo Essay (PDF)
These photos, ranging in time from the 1930s to today, show the Aran Islands from Ralph Vaughan Williams's time to now.