FAR TRAVELERS, a viking opera.
Libretto by Jeffrey Leiser
Composed by Jeffrey Leiser
In 1004 A.D., four years after Leif Erikson has reached modern-day Newfoundland, a group of merchants and vikings make the same trip. Their purpose is two-fold: bring back supplies to aid famine-stricken Greenland, and find the people responsible for the death of Vald, Leif's older brother, who did not return from the last voyage out west.
Our story centers around Gudrid, wife of famed-merchant and expedition leader Thorfinn Karlsefni, and Freydis, Leif's half-sister. When the Norse are visited by a first-nations tribe in Vinland (Newfoundland), Karlsefni decides that peace is possible. After Gudrid gives birth to a son, Snorri, Karlsefni even considers settling in Vinland permanently. But Freydis and her husband Thorvard have plans of their own: mistaking group-member Haki's kindness to the tribe as evidence of cooperation (Haki, a freed slave who was present on the trip prior, vouched that this tribe was not responsible for Vald's death), they murder Haki, using his death as an opportunity to wage war with the tribe. Karlsefni, believing Haki was killed by this tribe, reluctantly agrees to attack them, resulting in casualties on both sides. Soon thereafter, Haki's body is discovered and Karlsefni realizes the truth, but by now it is too dangerous to stay, so they all depart for Greenland.
In Greenland, Freydis, suspecting Karlsefni knows the truth about Haki, complicates matters by revealing to Gudrid her secret past relationship - and lost child with - Gudrid's husband Karlsefni, which causes Gudrid to question everything she knows about him. Eventually, Leif gets involved, resulting in a clash with Karlsefni over Gudrid, whom Leif has always secretly loved. When Leif and Karlsefni fight, Leif gets the upper hand, but Gudrid steps in to save Karlsefni's life. Then Freydis arrives, pinning the blame for Haki's death solely on her husband. Leif is infuriated with her for keeping this a secret, but Karlsefni convinces him not to punish her, but instead outlaw Thorvard, who actually slew Haki. Leif agrees.
After Thorvard is banished from Greenland, Gudrid convinces Karlsefni that they should return to their native Iceland. Back home, they begin again, but soon Karlsefni takes ill and dies, leaving Gudrid to raise their son Snorri alone. After some years, Thorvard reappears, seeking retribution for his outlawry and separation from Freydis, which he suspects is Karlsefni's fault. Finding that Karlsefni has died, he takes hold of Snorri as payment, but Gudrid, in her bravest moment, defends Snorri by swinging her axe into Thorvard's back, killing him. Soon thereafter, Freydis reappears, leaving Gudrid to fearfully explain what has happened. But to Gudrid's surprise, Freydis offers forgiveness. When Gudrid decides to atone for her act by making a pilgrimage to Rome, she entrusts Snorri into Freydis' care. And here, the saga ends.