Aussie composer hopes to follow the success of Bliss with his version of Hamlet.

In what looks likely to be a good year for Australian artists in the UK, Brett Dean’s latest opera has been programmed to headline the 2017 Glyndebourne Festival.  Following the success of his first opera, Bliss, in Australia and Edinburgh back in 2010, audiences at home and abroad will be eagerly anticipating the composer’s take on Shakespeare’s Hamlet with a libretto by Canadian writer and arts advocate Matthew Jocelyn.

“The operatic potential of Hamlet is huge: the themes of life and death, love and betrayal have opera written all over them,” said Dean, with regards to the new commission. “Even the fact that Hamlet is a thinker, a man given to self-awareness and self-appraisal, lends itself well to opera. The play provides frozen moments for him to express feelings; built-in ‘aria moments’. There’s a lot of humour in the piece too, as always in Shakespeare, and the wonderful way in which Matthew is shaping the text has been deeply inspiring.”

The production will directed by leading Neil Armfield (who also staged Bliss) and be conducted by former Glyndebourne Music Director Vladimir Jurowski. Following its eight performance June and July run in Sussex, it will transfer directly to the 2017 Glyndebourne Tour where it will travel around the UK.

Dean has been fascinated by Shakespeare’s gloomy Dane for some years. In his Second String Quartet, he presents Ophelia – a stratospheric and highly demanding soprano role – not as a passively suffering victim but as a hugely vibrant character. The new opera, meanwhile, has been commissioned to coincide with this year’s 400th anniversary of the Bard’s death and the cast looks pretty starry too. Leading British tenor Allan Clayton will sing Hamlet, British mezzo Sarah Connolly will take the role of Gertrude, Canadian soprano Barbara Hannigan will make her Glyndebourne debut as Ophelia and legendary British bass Sir John Tomlinson will appear as the Ghost of Old Hamlet.

Peter Coleman-Wright in Dean’s Bliss for Opera Australia

Other season highlights at Glyndebourne will include UK’s first ever production of Cavalli’s Hipermestra with the Orchestra of the Age of Enlightenment conducted by legendary baroque specialist and founder of Les Arts Florissants, William Christie. “It was almost 50 years ago that Glyndebourne first introduced Francesco Cavalli, a completely forgotten composer, with two of his works, L’Ormindo and La Calisto. The effect on the opera world was nothing short of extraordinary,” said Christie. “These works established Cavalli as a great composer of opera and reaffirmed Glyndebourne’s role as a place of discovery. After so many years I’m happy to take up this extraordinary beginning and continue the ‘Cavalli tradition’ at Glyndebourne with a new production of Hipermestra, one of his best works. I hope that our Hipermestra will have as much to say to today’s audience as its predecessors had to say so many years ago.”

Meanwhile, German director Claus Guth will make his Glyndebourne debut directing with a new production of Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito starring lyric tenor Steve Davislim. The Australian singer has carved out a very successful international stage, concert and recording career and is only rarely seen back home.