Riders to the Sea is Vaughan Williams' most successful operatic achievement. It is short, but musically and emotionally on a grand scale. The setting is the rugged and stormy west coast of Ireland, where Irish dramatist J.M. Synge spent several summers, and where the primitive life of the inhabitants, whose existence depended almost entirely on the sea, provided him with the material for his great tragic play Riders to the Sea. In choosing this one-act play about Aran fisher folk, Vaughan Williams expresses the theme of human endurance in the face of the natural elements.