A Letter for Queen Victoria
Opera by Robert Wilson, Alan Lloyd and Michael Galasso, with additional texts by Christopher Knowles, Stefan Brecht, Cynthia Lubar and James Neu.
Premiered on June 15, 1974 at the Caio Melisso Theater, Festival of Two Worlds, Spoleto, Italy.
Premiered on Broadway on March 22, 1975 at the A.N.T.A. Theater, New York.
After Deafman Glance, a 7-hour silent opera inspired by Robert Wilson's friend, protégée and collaborator, Raymond Andrews, Wilson met the young Christopher Knowles. He was fascinated by the boy's way of speaking, and eventually they began to work together. Knowles accompanied Wilson to rehearsals, and seemed to like the stage environment. One day, as Wilson remembers, "out of the blue," Knowles said: "Dear Madam, most gracious of Ladies, albeit in no way possessed of the honor of an introduction and indeed infinitely removed of the deserving of it...." - Astonished, Wilson asked him what that was, and Knowles answered: "A letter to Queen Victoria."
The three-hour opera first premiered in Spoleto, Italy, then received a run in La Rochelle and Paris, France, in 1974, and eventually came to Broadway in 1975. During the run in Paris, Robert Wilson invited his 88-year old grandmother, Alma Hamilton, to see the show. She agreed and flew from her Texas home to Paris, France. When Wilson picked her up at the airport and asked her how she was doing, she responded: "Oh, I am doing pretty good, Bob, but you should know that I have to take five pills per day to keep me going. Three diabetic pills, two vitamin pills, one blood pressure pill. Without them, I would just collapse." Wilson asked her if she wanted to be in the play and she agreed. Anxious as to what she should say on stage, Wilson told her to just tell the story of the pills. Indeed she appeared on stage, dressed up as Queen Victoria. Reportedly she was "a big hit in Paris."