Nation, Modernity, and the Operatic Stage
The libretto is committed to exploring themes within a narrative context, while Birtwistle tends to define his primary focus as inspired by, rather than dependent upon, narrative events and characters. Walton's initial reputation had been established by his association with a collaborative project whose modernity was signaled as much by its subject and verse as by its music. The opera takes advantage of this narrative division, the ending of the first act corresponds with the end of Troilus and Criseyde, in which Troilus offers a prayer to Aphrodite. Whereas Hassall claimed that Lewis's chapter on Chaucer provided the first hint for the opera, Walton himself did not read that until 1952, when he described it as 'extremely interesting'. As much of the play is therefore devoted to scenes between members of the military camps as it is to the encounters between Troilus and Cressida.