Opera North’s “brilliantly bonkers” (The Times) production of climate-change themed opera Masque of Might will be streamed online for free this December.
Renowned director Sir David Pountney has assembled the opera from the music of Henry Purcell to create an entirely new work, which received its world premiere in Leeds in October 2023. The opera tells an urgently contemporary story of a tyrannical political leader and an impending climate crisis through “recycled” arias and excerpts from throughout Purcell’s career.
Staged as part of Opera North’s Green Season in Autumn 2023, the production itself was conceived and designed to be sustainable, using the Theatre Green Book to guide new standards of environmental responsibility in theatre production and contributing towards Opera North’s aim of becoming carbon neutral by 2030. All three of Opera North’s Autumn season productions used shared scenic elements to create interlinked yet distinctive designs, reducing the use of physical resources and requiring fewer trucks to tour the three shows. All sets, props and costumes were sourced from previous productions or acquired second hand.
Masque of Might was filmed live at Leeds Grand Theatre in October 2023, with early music specialist Harry Bicket conducting a cast including Anna Dennis as Elena/Witch, Callum Thorpe as Diktat, and Andri Björn Róbertsson in the roles of Nebulous/Activist/Wolf.
Sir David Pountney comments:
“It’s a major new dramatic piece by, arguably, Britain’s greatest ever composer, bringing together amazing material: sacred, theatrical, dance music, a lot of which we don’t hear from year to year because it’s not in a very performable state for a modern audience. I just listened to the material and let the story emerge. One of the things that made an impression was the fantastic amount of apocalyptic language in this late-17th century body of work: effluent flowing into the rivers, bringing death everywhere; corpses adding to it; glaciers melting.
“Gradually the narrative took shape of the birth of a horrendous ruler – Diktat – which is foreseen by mythological figures. He imprisons people, tortures them and wreaks havoc on the environment, while claiming that climate change is a hoax. But slowly, nature takes over.”