QUARTET by Ron Harwood

QUARTET had a sell-out season in London's West End in 1999 and was nominated for a New Comedy Olivier Award in the same year. The setting is a home for retired opera singers where Cissy, Reggie and Wilf (all in their 70s) are living out their lives now with more aches, pains and regrets than curtain calls. In spite of this, their motto is “NSP” – “No Self Pity”. Cissy listens to her old opera recordings. She has grown a bit senile, often thinking that someone is either leaving for or returning from Karachi. Reggie spends time writing his autobiography and raging against a nurse in the home who will not give him marmalade for breakfast. Wilf, a little in love with Cissy, thinks mostly about sex, wishing he were the man he used to be. 

As the play opens, plans are in motion to celebrate the birthday of Giuseppe Verdi with a gala concert for which all the residents have been asked to perform something. Cissy, Reggie and Wilf are trying to decide what they will sing when a newcomer takes up residence in the home. It is Jean, a former colleague and star of the opera world who was married briefly (nine hours, to be exact) to Reggie. Her arrival sparks old jealousies and painful memories. It also gives the four of them the opportunity to reprise their former stage triumph – the famous quartet from Verdi’s RIGOLETTO – for the gala concert! But Jean, a diva embittered by her reduced status, refuses to be humiliated in public by trying to sing again. Can they change her mind? More to the point, are they still able to raise their voices in song? The play ends with a musical twist that celebrates the triumph of life and art over old age and bitterness. The moving finale is an affirmation that life is to be lived to the full.   


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