Music Theatre Wales (MTW) is set to premiere Tom Coult and Alice Birch’s new opera Violet at next year’s Aldeburgh Festival on 3 June 2022, with a second performance on 5 June, the Cardiff-based contemporary opera company has revealed.

The production will then tour to the Hackney Empire in east London, on 23 June, the Buxton International Festival (date still to be announced) and selected venues in Wales (dates also to be confirmed).

Violet was originally planned to premiere and tour in 2020, but had to be cancelled due to Covid-19 health restrictions.

The opera is a co-commission and co-production by MTW and arts and culture charity Britten Pears Arts, with the London date co-produced with the Royal Opera; it is staged in association with the London Sinfonietta. It features music by up-and-coming composer Tom Coult, currently resident composer at the BBC Philharmonic Orchestra, and an original English-language libretto from writer Alice Birch, who is particularly known for her powerful female-centred writing and whose film and TV credits include Normal People and Lady Macbeth.

The story takes place in an isolated community which is controlled by the regularity of the town clock. For years, Violet’s tired daily routine has been dictated by the inescapable chimes of the clock, until one night she feels time quicken. Suddenly an hour is lost every day. As the hours continue to disappear, long-held certainties evaporate and ordered society falls into disarray.

As the men in charge of the town begin to lose control, Violet dares to imagine a different future for herself. Trapped and stifled in an unhappy marriage, she senses that there is a new life waiting to be discovered and sets out to find it. Can she escape from her humdrum existence?

The opera has been written for four parts and 13 instrumentalists. The roles are Violet (soprano), Felix (baritone), Laura (mezzo-soprano) and the Clockkeeper (tenor). The work lasts approximately 85 minutes. It is directed by director, writer and theatre-maker Jude Christian, while the London Sinfonietta comes under the baton of conductor Andrew Gourlay. The designer is Rosie Elnile, with costumes by Cécile Trémolières.

In response to the cancellation of the original premiere and tour of Violet, MTW said in a statement: “We have not stopped working on the production. The director, designer and lighting designer for Violet continue to meet remotely to co-ordinate the development of the designs for the production. We are inspired by the extraordinary level of creativity the team is showing during this period of great uncertainty and it makes us determined to present Violet just as soon as it becomes possible.”

Next year’s Aldeburgh Festival will take place in the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh between 3 and 26 June. It comprises a wide range of events, including world premieres, artist residencies, productions of well-known operas and concert performances. Full details of the festival are yet to be announced.

Tickets for the Hackney Empire show on 23 June 2022 are on sale now and cost from £10. The show starts at 7.30pm. This performance features British soprano Elizabeth Atherton as Violet and British mezzo Frances Gregory as Laura; the role of Felix is yet to be cast.

The 2022 Buxton International Festival, a summer celebration of the very best in opera, music and literature in the Derbyshire spa town of Buxton in the heart of the Peak District, runs from 7-24 July. All events are yet to be confirmed.



Cardiff-based contemporary opera company Music Theatre Wales is set to premiere new opera Violet, from composer Tom Coult and writer Alice Birch, at next year’s Aldeburgh Festival in Suffolk.