Introducing... Hamlet

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Festival 17 will feature the world premiere of a new opera of Hamlet, bringing together one of the greatest works of literature ever written and leading operatic talent from across the globe.

Need to know

Hamlet may be a brand-new opera, but it takes inspiration from Shakespeare’s best-known tragedy:

‘The operatic potential of Hamlet is huge: the themes of life and death, love and betrayal have opera written all over them. Even the fact that Hamlet is a thinker, a man given to self-awareness and self-appraisal, lends itself well to opera. The wonderful way in which Matthew is shaping the text has been deeply inspiring.’
—Brett Dean, Composer

Brett Dean comes to Glyndebourne following the huge success of his previous opera, Bliss, which premiered at Sydney Opera House in 2010.

Brett is joined by fellow Australian Neil Armfield as Director. Neil has directed numerous productions for Opera Australia, including their first full-length presentation of The Ring Cycle. He is also an acclaimed film director.

Things are busy behind-the-scenes at Glyndebourne right now, with preparations under way for the world premiere of this new work:

‘This is a very exciting time as the staging is being created in tandem with the orchestration and libretto. This creates unique challenges as the creative team have to be flexible in their designs so that they can be adapted as the opera grows and develops.’
—Eric Gautron, Technical Director

Why this production?

One of our previous new commissions, Jonathan Dove’s Flight. Photo: Mike Hoban

Glyndebourne has long been committed to the creation of new operatic work, as Sebastian F. Schwarz explains:

‘Creating new work is of fundamental importance, not only to Glyndebourne but for opera as an art form. Opera is a living thing that evolves: we need to tell stories that are right for our times in a musical language for our times.’
—Sebastian F. Schwarz, General Director

Hamlet is the latest in a prestigious line of new operas that have premiered at Glyndebourne: two of Benjamin Britten’s operas – The Rape of Lucretia and Albert Herring – made their debuts here. Glyndebourne has been commissioning new work since 1970, starting with The Rising of the Moon by Nicholas Maw. More recent commissions have included Flight (Jonathan Dove, 1998), The Last Supper (Harrison Birtwistle, 2000) and Love and Other Demons (Péter Eötvös, 2008).

With Cavalli’s Hipermestra also on stage in Festival 2016, audiences have the opportunity to see opera in its earliest form alongside the brand new:

‘Glyndebourne has had a long tradition of presenting new works alongside the very early ones so it is rather special to see this continue with Hamlet and Hipermestra in Festival 2017.’
—Julia Aries, Glyndebourne Archivist

Cast and creative team

Allan Clayton (pictured in The Rape of Lucretia, with Kate Royal in Festival 2015) will play Hamlet. Photo: Robbie Jack.

Hamlet will be conducted by Vladimir Jurowski, who returns to Glyndebourne for the first time since completing his tenure as Music Director.

A cast of some of the finest singing actors of the moment will bring Hamlet to life.

British tenor and Glyndebourne favourite Allan Clayton will play Hamlet. He was last seen in the critically acclaimed The Rape of Lucretia (2015). British mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly will play Gertrude. Connolly started her career in the Glyndebourne Chorus and has previously appeared in Giulio Cesare (2005) and Hippolyte et Aricie (2013).

Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan, a strong advocate of contemporary music, will make her Glyndebourne debut as Ophelia. Legendary British bass John Tomlinson, who also started out in the Glyndebourne Chorus, plays the Ghost of Old Hamlet. Also in the cast, playing Horatio, is Jacques Imbrailo, who wowed audiences playing the title role in Billy Budd (2013).

Conductor Vladimir Jurowski returns to Glyndebourne for the first time since Festival 2013.

Earlier this year we went behind the scenes at a musical workshop for Hamlet, where singers and musicians including Allan Clayton (Hamlet) and John Tomlinson (Ghost of Old Hamlet) worked with composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn to develop the score.

Watch this short video to get a sneak preview of some of the music and hear from Brett and Matthew about the creative process:

Workshop participants: Allan Clayton, John Tomlinson, Jennifer France, Leslie Davis, Michael Wallace, Russell Harcourt, Benjamin Williamson, Rupert Charlesworth, Samuel Hogarth, Tim Anderson and Stephen Higgins.

Things to look out for

Vladimir Jurowski will conduct the London Philharmonic Orchestra, and audience members might want to look out for some interesting orchestration:

‘The orchestration of Hamlet will be characterised by a larger variety of instruments than usual, especially in the woodwind and percussion sections. In addition, a rich palette of unusual colours and textures from the strings and brass sections will be complemented by acoustic and electronic keyboards, as well as the distinctive sounds of an accordion.
To broaden the atmospheric soundscape, there will be two additional instrumental groups in the auditorium as well as the Glyndebourne Chorus.
All these elements will play important roles in highlighting the themes and characters of this ground-breaking operatic adventure.’
—Ian Julier, Senior Librarian

Enrich your experience

Win a timeless record of your Glyndebourne experience
To celebrate the world premiere, every Hamlet ticket booker will be entered into a prize draw to win a painting of their visit by acclaimed artist Julian Sutherland-Beatson. Full details here.

Julian Sutherland-Beatson’s work evocatively captures Glyndebourne and the beauty of our landscape.

Dig deeper into Hamlet at these extra events for Festival 2017:

Insider talk: Hamlet – creating a world premiere
Join us for an in-depth look at the making of Hamlet on Thursday 6 July.

Pre-performance talk
Join us for a bite-sized overview of the opera from a musical expert on Sunday 11 June.

Please also look out for a round-table interview with Brett Dean, Matthew Jocelyn, Neil Armfield and Vladimir Jurowski in the Festival 2017 Programme Book, published in May 2017.

Hamlet is generously supported by The Monument Trust

World premiere supported by a Syndicate of Individuals