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Introducing... The Wreckers

Everything you need to know about our our brand new production of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers

Festival 2022 opens with an exciting premiere – not only the first Glyndebourne staging of Ethel Smyth’s The Wreckers, but also the first major professional staging since 1939 in the UK.

In our latest Introducing… video, our Opera Content Specialist Alexandra Coghlan explores a piece that is pivotal to the history of English opera. She meets our Artistic and Music Directors, Stephen Langridge and Robin Ticciati, to find out how they went about rediscovering this extraordinary work. Plus, director Melly Still tells us about the sustainable ethos behind her production.

A brief introduction

The Wreckers is a piece many opera lovers know by name, but one that few have heard, let alone seen. Yet it is an important missing link in the evolution of English music (Britten’s Peter Grimes is particularly indebted to it) and also a genuinely compelling work in its own right. With its sweeping musical soundscapes, passionate love story, and unflinching portrait of fear, groupthink and mob mentality, this is an important work of 20th century opera that you won’t want to miss. 

Set in a remote corner of Cornwall, the opera tells the tale of a God-fearing community living a desperate, precarious existence. Their only hope is the ships that are wrecked on their rocks. But when they start to cause those shipwrecks deliberately, murdering the crew for profit, it tears the villagers apart, setting in motion a tragedy that kills two of their own.

Why not to miss this production

Glyndebourne’s production will be the first ever staging of the opera’s original French-language version, and the first professional, major-house staging in our lifetime. It will also be the first time the Festival has staged an opera by a woman – and not just any woman: a bisexual feminist, who was imprisoned for suffragette activism.

The production sees the welcome return of director Melly Still, whose inventive and visually striking productions of Rusalka and The Cunning Little Vixen were much loved by the Festival audience and critics alike.

Director Melly Still’s production of Rusalka, Festival 2019 | Photo: Tristram Kenton

A great moment to look out for

The Overture has a surging power, introducing us to all the motifs that will take on fuller meaning and associations later on. The orchestral writing throughout is strong, and the prelude to Act II ‘On the Cliffs of Cornwall’ paints a portrait of the sea in a different mood, as does the cave music of Act III. All strikingly atmospheric and recognisably part of the same English tradition as Peter Grimes.

Cast and creative team

American mezzo-soprano Karis Tucker and Mexican tenor Rodrigo Porras Garulo will play the doomed lovers Thurza and Marc, leading an international cast that also includes Lauren Fagan as the jealous Avis and Philip Horst as stern pastor Pasko. Robin Ticciati conducts.

Supported by Christopher and Sarah Smith with a Syndicate and Circle of individuals
Bring world-class opera to the stage in Festival 2022

The Wreckers is available to support from £5,000+
Join a Production Circle or Syndicate
Contact our Director of Development, Helen McCarthy –

Illustration © Katie Ponder

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