Isabella And The Pot of Basil

– an opera in one act –

By Laurence Roman


Isabella РH̩loise West
Nurse – Rebecca Smith
Lorenzo – John Haythornthwaite
First Brother – Jake White
Second Brother – Russell Painter

Pianist – Steven Neugarten

Musical Director – Paul McClure
Director – Martin Harvey




A woman enters, dishevelled and crazed.
She addresses her song, ful of bitterness and hurt,
lewdly to passers-by before going on her way.


Scene 1: The Sicilian port of Messina.

Two brothers celebrate the safe arrival home of their ship,
laden with exotic merchandise. We learn they intend marrying off their sister, Isabella, to a penniless nobleman in the hope of advancing themselves socially. On realising their sister is conducting a secret liaison with Lorenzo, their clerk, the brothers’ high-spirits sour into passionate resentment. They hatch a ruthless plan to rid themselves of Lorenzo.


Scene 2: Isabella’s bedroom.

We discover Isabella and her nurse planting basil seeds in a richly ornamented pot. Isabella yearns sadly for Lorenzo and, on realising all efforts to console her charge in vain, the nurse leaves Isabella to her solitude. Suddenly, to Isabella’s delight and astonishment, Lorenzo clambers over the balcony and the lovers and reunited. Their reunion is soon interrupted, however, by the arrival of Isabella’s brothers. Lorenzo hides on the balcony, while the brothers try to entice Isabella into marrying one of the suitors they have in mind for her. Isabella is adamant in her refusal and the brothers leave angrily. Lorenzo emerges from his hiding place and he and Isabella indulge their love.


Scene 3: A corridor.

For weeks the brothers have overheard Isabella singing and whispering in the her room but, on entering, find her to be alone. They round furiously on the nurse, convinced she is concealing details of Isabella’s continuing secret assignations. In spite of their brutal attempts at breaking what they see as the nurse’s intransigence, the brothers discover nothing.


Scene 4: Isabella’s bedroom.

Isabella starts awake in bed next to Lorenzo. She has had a nightmare in which her brothers murdered her lover. Lorenzo tries reassuring Isabella, but she remains uneasy. All at once the brothers, who have heard voices from Isabella’s room, break down the locked door. Lorenzo escapes over the balcony just in time to avoid them as they burst in. Even her brothers’ worst suspicions are exceeded by what they finally uncover to be Isabella’s eerie secret.