chapter  13
17 Pages

'Behind thy veil close-drawn'

Elgar, The Crown of India, and the Feminine 'Other' 1

Edward Elgar's incidental music for the 'Imperial Masque' The Crown of India was written in the early months of 1912 in response to a commission from the music-hall impresario Oswald Stoll. This spectacularly lavish production, with libretto by Henry Hamilton, celebrates King George V's Delhi Durbar of December 1911 and was performed as part of a variety programme at the Coliseum, London, for two weeks, with Elgar himself conducting the orchestra. The music, consisting of seven orchestral numbers, two songs, and six pieces of melodrama, was a resounding success with critics, and was well liked by radio audiences in the last decade of Elgar's lifetime. Rule of England' is ordered, disciplined, structurally coherent – it has 'form', lacks fussiness, and is as emotionally distanced as a 'man' of Elgar's time should be. This is music that befits the Man in Kipling's If; in an attempt to construct a masculine identity, all culturally defined 'feminine' musical elements are repressed.