Birmingham Opera Company is set to stage a new production of German dramatist Bertolt Brecht’s agitprop cantata The Decision. Performances will take place in ‘The Party HQ’ – otherwise known as Great Hampton Works, a late Victorian former jewellery workshop in Birmingham; all of the company’s productions take place in non-theatre settings.

The cantata consists of eight sections in prose and unrhymed, free verse, with six major songs. Lyrics and text were written by Brecht, with music by Austrian composer Hanns Eisler. The English-language translation used by Birmingham Opera Company was written by British translator and scholar John Willett. Willett is particularly remembered as a translator of Brecht’s work.

The piece asks the question: when is it right to kill? It follows four Communist agitators from Moscow who have returned from a successful mission in China. However, during their mission they had been forced to kill an enthusiastic young comrade who in his devotion to the cause exposes himself and risks the mission and lives of the four protagonists.

The four agitators explain to their young comrade what they are doing and ask him to agree to his own death. He consents and the agitators shoot him and throw his body in a lime pit.

The agitators confess the killing to a central committee, known as The Control Chorus, and ask for its judgement. The committee members command the agitators to re-enact the events leading to the young man’s death; after which they will deliver their verdict.

The new production is directed by award-winning theatre and opera director Anthony Almeida, with set designs by Claudia Fragoso. Birmingham Opera Company’s musical director Alpesh Chauhan OBE wields the baton.

Performers include New Zealand-British mezzo-soprano Wendy Dawn Thompson, along with actors Aimee Berwick, Therese Collins and Paksie Vernon. Also featured are the Birmingham Opera Company Chorus and members of the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire. Some roles have been filled by amateur volunteers following a call out from Birmingham Opera Company.

Performances of The Decision take place at 7pm and 9pm on 3 and 4 March and at 7pm on 5 March at Great Hampton Works. The running time is approximately 1 hour. Tickets cost £5; however, Birmingham Opera Company operates a ‘pay what you can’ scheme and asks that those who can afford to consider paying more. Tickets are limited to two per booking.

There is no general seating for the performances – audiences will follow the action as the players move through the venue. Birmingham Opera Company advises audiences to wear very warm clothing and sturdy footwear, as the venue is cold and the floor uneven.

The company also warns that the production includes some scenes of a violent nature and the use of strobe lighting.



Birmingham Opera Company will stage a new version of Brecht’s political cantata The Decision in former jewellery workshop Great Hampton Works in Birmingham in March.