Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the Free Press
6:50 AM 21st November 2023

Masque Of Might: New Climate-Change Themed Opera To Stream On Operavision

<i>Masque of Might</i>
Photo: © James Glossop
Masque of Might Photo: © James Glossop
Music by Henry Purcell
Libretto assembled and adapted by Sir David Pountney
World premiere. Sung in English with English titles

Henry Purcell is arguably England’s finest composer of music for the stage before Benjamin Britten, yet he wrote only one opera, Dido and Aeneas. Immortal masterpiece though that undoubtedly is, much of Purcell’s greatest dramatic music is to be found in the ‘semi-operas’, masques and other entertainments that were popular in his time, such as The Fairy Queen.

Taking inspiration from the masque – the 17th-century equivalent of a variety show in its mix of song, dance and spectacle – Sir David Pountney has skilfully assembled a thoroughly modern entertainment that showcases some of Purcell’s best music written for – but now rarely heard in – the theatre. Drawing largely on the original texts set to music by Purcell, this witty, incisive and fantastical work addresses urgently topical themes such as the abuses of a powerful political leader and the gathering climate crisis.

A sustainable production as part of Opera North’s Green Season. Supported by the Friends of Opera North

Cast and creative team includes:
Nebulous / Activist / Wolf Andri Björn Róbertsson
Elena / Witch Anna Dennis
Tousel Blond / Fox James Laing
Strumpet Ginger James Hall
Diktat Callum Thorpe
Scrofulous / Toady / Seer / Saul Xavier Hetherington
Sceptic / Samuel Matthew Brook

Conductor Harry Bicket
Director Sir David Pountney
Set Designer Leslie Travers
Costume Designer Marie-Jeanne Lecca
Lighting Design Paule Constable and Ben Pickersgill
Video Designer David Haneke
Choreographer Denni Sayers
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.”

Our review of Masque Of Might - Has Opera North Lost The Plot? is here.

Masque of Might will premiere on the OperaVision platform on Sunday 3 December 2023 at 6.00pm (GMT) / 7.00pm CET. It will be available to watch online for free until Monday 3 June 2024. Watch it at