Adelaide Festival 2018 – Hamlet, Stellar Shakespearean Opera

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017
Hamlet, Festival 2017

Claudius (Rod Gilfry) ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Promised as the operatic event of the year, with an exclusive season at the 2018 Adelaide FestivalDirector and Adelaide Festival Joint Artistic Director Neil Armfield AO and Australian composer Brett Dean‘s production masterpiece of one of Shakespeare’s most famous and revered plays Hamlet, conducted by Nicholas Carter, will make its Australian debut 2 – 18 March 2018.

“This above all: to thine own self be true, 
And it must follow, as the night the day, 
Thou canst not then be false to any man.”

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Hamlet (Allan Clayton), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Recently dazzling audiences at the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in the UK, joint Artistic Director Rachel Healy said “We are utterly delighted that while the great opera houses of the world are waiting in line to include Hamlet in their future programs, its second international season will be on home turf and that …audiences in this country will have an opportunity to celebrate the creative genius of their fellow Australians.”

Hamlet, Festival 2017

Hamlet (Allan Clayton) and Horatio (Jacques Imbrailo), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

The creative team includes Australian set designer Ralph Myers, Australian costume designer Alice Babidge and British lighting designer Jon Clark. The libretto by Matthew Jocelyn adheres to the Bard’s original narrative thread by using Shakespeare’s own words, although abridging, reconfiguring and interweaving them into powerful and playful motifs. In this way arguably Shakespeare’s greatest work is reborn as an opera; the music of love and life.

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Hamlet (Allan Clayton), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Speaking from America where he is currently currently the composer in residence at the Marlboro Music Festival, Brett Dean said: “Back in 1980, as an 18-year-old viola player in my first season as a member of the Australian Youth Orchestra, I travelled to the Adelaide Festival and participated in a truly international arts festival for the first time. It was a revelation to witness such a gathering of culturally like-minded ‘obsessives’. To be returning as composer of the Adelaide Festival’s featured opera in 2018 is a wonderfully proud moment for me and I wish it and the whole festival every possible success.”


The Globe Theatre, London today

London today sports The Globe, a playhouse first built in 1599, which became a ‘window to the world’ for the humble man from Stratford on Avon playwright William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616). He helped shape England’s sense of national identity from the Elizabethan Age until today.

Hamlet, Festival 2017

Gravedigger (John Tomlinson) and Hamlet (Allan Clayton), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

In Queen Elizabeth 1’s London two out of every fifteen of the capital’s population were going to the theatre every week viewing plays and entertainments. There were fireworks, songs and dumb-shows, prize fights, dances and the antics of clowns and female tumblers, with dog and bear fighting the most brutal.

Since he took the sixteenth century by storm with his plays, sonnets and words of wisdom, Will Shakespeare has been considered a true genius. ‘All the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances’ he mused – ‘we know what we are, but know not what we may become’.

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Ophelia (Barbara Hannigan) and Hamlet (Allan Clayton) ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Life was filled with cloak-and-dagger style politics; with many intrigues, illicit romances and schemes of greedy nobles hungry for the power. They were generally lambasted on stage showcasing stories of incest, illegitimacy and forbidden love combined with tragedy basically part of the everyone’s real life experiences.

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Act I scene. Front: Player 1 (John Tomlinson). Back, left to right: Gertrude (Sarah Connolly), Claudius (Rod Gilfry), Hamlet (Allan Clayton), Polonius (Kim Begley) and Ophelia (Barbara Hannigan), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark in five acts written between 1599 – 1600 is integral to Shakespeare’s exploration of the darker issues concerned with humanity. This happened during a period when having already worked through romantic comedy and history plays, he turned to tragedy.

To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause: there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Left to right: Gertrude (Sarah Connolly), Laertes (David Butt Philip), Claudius (Rod Gilfry), Horatio (Jacques Imbrailo) and Hamlet (Allan Clayton) ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Shakespeare’s inner tormented protagonist is unique in the genre; finding tragic meaning in his own story while exploring his own deeply irrational fears.

Hamlet has a hatred of women and he mistrusts his own masculinity, as he touches on the staggering array of human emotions. He ponders on the nature of friendship, memory, romantic attachment, filial love, sensuous enslavement, corrupting habits such as drinking and sexual lust, while encompassing almost every phase of his own human experience, ensuring heaven will hold him accountable for his crimes.

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Hamlet (Allan Clayton) and Polonius (Kim Begley), ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Reprising the title role of Hamlet British tenor Allan Clayton, who was hailed as “physically vivid, emotionally affecting, psychologically astute” by The Times (UK) will feature alongside American baritone Rod Gilfry as Claudius, British tenor Kim Begley as Polonius and leading Australian sopranos Cheryl Barker as Gertrude and Lorina Gore as Ophelia.


Countertenor Christopher Lowrey

American counter-tenor Christopher Lowrey admired for his performances with the Pinchgut Opera, Sydney and as David in Saul at the 2017 Adelaide Festival, will play Guildenstern to British counter-tenor Rupert Enticknap’s Rosencrantz, alongside Australian singers Sam Sakker, who will feature as Laertes and Douglas McNicol as Horatio. Supported by the State Opera of South Australia chorus and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Nicholas Carter, the event will be an all-encompassing theatrical experience.

Neil Armfield also noted “… everything seemed to work for us in Glyndebourne: every day was a revelation with Brett’s music meeting the power and wit of Matthew’s libretto with profound and thrilling results. When the audience stood and cheered at the conclusion of the premiere performance we knew we’d witnessed the birth of a great new opera.”

Hamlet, Glyndebourne Festival 2017

Act II scene. Centre: Hamlet (Allan Clayton) and Laertes (David Butt Philip) ©Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Photographer Richard Hubert Smith

Carolyn McDowall, The Culture Concept Circle, 2018


2, 4 and 6 March 2018
Festival Theatre,
Adelaide Festival Centre

Sung in English with English supertitles
Composer: Brett Dean Librettist: Matthew Jocelyn . Conductor: Nicholas Carter Director: Neil Armfield Set Designer: Ralph Myers Costume Designer: Alice Babidge Lighting Designer: Jon Clark Movement Director and Assistant Director: Denni Sayers Chorus Master: Brett Weymark Accordionist: James Crabb With the Adelaide Symphony Orchestra and State Opera of South Australia Chorus .

A Glyndebourne Festival Opera production, originally performed in the Glyndebourne Festival 2017. Presented by the Adelaide Festival in association with the State Opera of South Australia and Adelaide Symphony Orchestra. This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. The presentation of Hamlet has been made possible by the Adelaide Festival Hamlet Donor Circle.

Tickets on sale to Friends of the Adelaide Festival only: Become a Friend
Thursday 17 August 2017

General public tickets on sale: Join the Waitlist
Thursday 31 August, 2017

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.