My Opera Experience

Philip Venables

British composer best known for his operatic and theatrical works with themes of sexuality, violence and politics.

Philip Venables

What was your first opera?

Phantom of the Opera (Lloyd Webber, 1986) – if that counts – when I was a teenager, at the Manchester Palace Theatre; my mum took me. I think otherwise, I’m not sure, but it could have been Janáček’s Jenůfa (1904) at Sydney Opera House when I was travelling in Australia aged 19. I only bought a ticket because it was what was on that night, and I wanted to say I’d been to the Sydney Opera House …

What was the last opera you saw and where?

Strangely enough my own! Denis and Katya (2019), which we performed at the Southbank Centre in London on the final weekend before the coronavirus lockdown. We were very lucky the performances were able to take place. At least that was the last live one – I’ve watched lots of opera streams from all over the world during lockdown.

What is your favourite opera and why?

It’s a very hard task to name just one, but a few would be Madama Butterfly (Puccini, 1900), Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (Shostakovich, 1934), Wozzeck (Berg, 1925), Elektra (Strauss, 1909), The Nose (Shostakovich, 1930) and many more …

How did you get into opera?

I was working with spoken text in concert music, and gradually doing little opera workshops, scenes and self-produced stuff with friends. Then I got a big break with 4.48 Psychosis (2016).

What opera would you recommend to a newcomer and why?

The Nose or Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk – Shostakovich is a great dramatist, and very direct.