Prize for Opera 2019


01 / 08


United Kingdom
Music Theatre Wales

A new opera by Tom Coult (composer) and Alice Birch (librettist) inspired by The Devil in the Belfry by Edgar Allan Poe


As the hours of the day disappear, the opera explores the impact of the impending crisis in one home, focussing on one woman in a role that is entirely original. She is already unhappy in a world that seems to give her no agency, struggling in her relationship and with the highly ordered social structures encapsulated by the regulation of time. She senses there is an alternative, but has no idea if it is attainable, but what is clear is that staying in the now imploding present is not an option. Loosely inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s The Devil in The Belfry, Alice Birch and Tom Coult have developed the story into something entirely new and relevant to contemporary audiences.

This re-imagining of the story is true to the writing of Alice Birch, well known for her powerful, female centred dramatic writing which is highly intelligent, uncompromising, sensitive and sincere. This is opera for now and about now, but with a universal message that will not go away.

The treatment of this story is compelling as an opera for two principal reasons: The powerful emotional and societal issues at stake in particular for the central female character but also for the men in the story as they fail to deal with the consequences of the collapse of time and their ordered world; The idea of time disappearing is also a prime motivator for the music and offers Tom Coult great opportunities for musical development and argument.

The collaborative approach includes all three companies in sharing the appointment of the creative team to create a production that plays to the strengths of the work, is true to each company and at the same time brings something new to each of us. From MTW’s perspective the best collaborations are those that add to the artistic work and challenge us as a company, as well as bringing additional exposure to the work and shared investment. We believe this collaboration will achieve all these elements.

Artistic Team

The Team

Artistic Directors: Michael McCarthy MTW
Roger Wright Aldeburgh Festival
Karen Stone Theater Magdeburg

Producers: Carole Strachan MTW
Kate Wyatt Aldeburgh Festival

Composer: Tom Coult

Librettist: Alice Birch

Conductor: Richard Baker

Ensemble: London Sinfonietta

Director Yet to be decided but we have decided the work will be directed by a woman and we have shortlisted 3 highly skilled candidates for the composer and writer to meet.

Tom Coult

Tom Coult


Alice Birch

Alice Birch


Co-producing Partners

Snape Maltings

United Kingdom


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