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The Secret Agent

A chamber opera, whose central character is silent and which ends with someone running into the audience and suicide bombing them.  Nasty?   Yes, very, and for me a personal heart of darkness that messed with my head quite badly.  The Conrad story on which I based it is very disturbing: to make it stageable I took a minor but profoundly unpleasant character - The Professor - and placed him at the centre of the drama as a sort of diabolus ex machina.  The result was more manipulative and sadistic than the novel and - thanks to Katrin Hiller's staging - a lot funnier too.

It was a considerable success at its premiere in Feldkirch, Austria in May 2006, but bit of me thinks the writing of it exacted too high a price. I was certainly reluctant to compose for some months after it was finished, though of course all the old itches eventually returned and had to be scratched.

It has four sung roles: mezzo soprano, countertenor, tenor and bass baritone and a big part for a mime.  It is scored for flute, clarinet, harp, violin, viola, cello and percussion.  Runtime with one interval is just under three hours.

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