Introducing... Hamlet on Tour

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We are excited to be taking Brett Dean’s Hamlet, ‘one of the most eagerly anticipated premieres of the year’ (The Telegraph), directly from this summer’s Festival directly to Tour 2017.

Need to know

Hamlet was written between 1599 and 1602. It was Shakespeare’s longest play, making the task of adapting it into an opera an enormous challenge for composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn. In a recent interview with The Telegraph, Brett said:

‘When I saw this huge mountain in front of me, I have to admit I was vaguely perturbed. People would say things like “Hamlet, eh? That’s rather… big”.’
—Brett Dean, Composer

Shakespeare’s Hamlet exists in three original versions – the first so-called ‘bad’ quarto, the second ‘good’ quarto and the First Folio, the most fully realised version of the play. For Matthew Jocelyn, these rewrites were liberating:

‘There is no such thing as Hamlet. There is no definitive text of Hamlet upon which all scholars agree, and all people of the theatre agree, and so we just allowed ourselves to pick and choose.’
—Matthew Jocelyn, Librettist

In this episode of the Glyndebourne podcast, composer Brett Dean and librettist Matthew Jocelyn discuss the creative process:

Why this production?

Brett Dean is renowned for his richly lyrical music. You can get a taste of the music of Hamlet in this extract of Dean’s ‘From Melodious Lay (A Hamlet Diffraction)’. Inspired by the process of writing his full-length Hamlet, this ‘orchestral poem for soprano and tenor’ sees Dean getting under the skin of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.

All Tour productions provide an opportunity for audiences to hear a cast of emerging talent and Hamlet is no exception. British tenor David Butt Philip, who is performing the role of Laertes in the Festival premiere, will move on to sing the title role on Tour. Talking about his involvement in Hamlet, David said:

‘It’s still relatively rare for major companies to commission large-scale new works, so it’s an intriguing project to be involved with… Currently I am revising the Shakespeare, which I haven’t read since school!’
—David Butt Philip, Hamlet

David Butt Philip will play Hamlet

Ophelia will be sung by British soprano Jennifer France who was recently nominated in the Young Singer category at the International Opera Awards 2017.

Cast and creative team

Hamlet is Australian composer, Brett Dean’s second opera, his first was an adaptation of Peter Carey’s novel Bliss, which premiered at Sydney Opera House in 2010. Brett originally trained as a viola player with the Australian Youth Orchestra.

Brett is joined by fellow Australian Neil Armfield as Director. Neil has directed numerous productions for Opera Australia and is also an acclaimed film director.

David Butt Philip (Hamlet) and Jennifer France (Ophelia) will be joined by British mezzo-soprano Louise Winter (Gertrude), British baritone William Dazeley (Claudius), Welsh tenor Jeffrey Lloyd-Roberts (Polonius), British tenor Rupert Charlesworth (Laertes), Irish baritone Gavan Ring (Horatio) and British countertenors James Hall (Rosencrantz) and Rupert Enticknap (Guildenstern).

The production will be conducted by British conductor Duncan Ward.

Things to look out for

Brett Dean’s treatment of Ophelia as a strong woman is intriguing. In his recent Telegraph interview Dean said:

‘Nothing can be more clichéd than depictions of madness on stage. So often, Ophelia is this weak and wavering character in a long white shift, but when you look at the text, she is actually a strong personality who gives as good as she gets. The key, for me, was to get to the core of her collapse, rather than to show her as this weak girl who has no resistance. There is a firmness to her which suddenly snaps.’
—Brett Dean, Composer

Hamlet will feature a much larger variety of instruments than usual, creating a richly textured and highly atmospheric soundscape.

Jennifer France © Nick James

Enrich your experience

Pre-performance talk
Tuesday 24 October, 4.30pm. Tickets £5 to ticket holders for that day’s performance.
Join us for a bite-sized introduction to the opera.