Opera Prize 2022

AGNES a new opera

The Icelandic Opera

AGNES a new opera
Agnes is a new opera dedicated to women that do not have a voice in their destiny. The opera is about love, passion, abuse and the yearning for a better life. A dramatic turn of events triggers a fateful scenario where a love affair turns into a nightmare of violence and destruction.


The inspiration comes from a childhood memory of being told the incredible story about Agnes at the place of her execution and the vision to give her the voice she never had contributing to the awareness that there are still too many women that suffer abuse and don´t have the opportunity to leave or change their circumstances that are intolerable for them.

The opera is based on the true story about Agnes and Natan who is a handsome healer and philanderer and their passionate love affair that led to the devastating events when she was executed for his murder. She accepted his offer of becoming the head maid on his farm. When she arrived she found a teenage maid already employed there and quickly discovered she was not the only woman in his life.

The story of Agnes lies deep within the hearts and minds of all Icelanders. Since the events occurred, almost 200 years ago, this tale of love, jealousy, violence and murder has managed to captivate and hold the imagination of the Icelandic people and they are still discussing what actually happened and why. Books and plays have been written, films have been made and still the Icelandic people grapple with this story which today is not just confined to Iceland but has found a global audience through Hannah Kent who wrote a best seller about Agnes called Burial Rites. This opera is not based on the book. We have made our own treatment and synopsis after extensive research and creative development with the assistance of some of the decendants of those that the story is about that heard it directly from their forefathers.

The composer Daníel Bjarnason, librettist Royce Vavrek and stage director Rodula Gaitanou have worked closely together from the start of the development of the opera in a very good team collaboration. It has been a priviledge to lead the team on the behalf of the Icelandic Opera creating a platform for it to become a reality and fulfilling my childhood dream of giving Agnes the voice she never had.

Artistic Team

After co-producing Brothers by Daniel Bjarnason with Den Jyske Opera it felt like a natural next step for the Icelandic Opera to commission his next opera. I had already been looking for opportunities to commission an opera about the story of Agnes for some years so the pieces fell together when Daníel accepted our invitation to compose the opera. After some research we both agreed that the best choice of a librettist for the opera would be Royce Vavrek him beeing the leading librettist in new opera working with many prominent young composers and delivering brilliant work every time. We wanted to engage a stage director from the very first stage in the development and Rodula Gaitanou came on board almost from the onset of the project with great results. It is fair to say that this has been a dream team to work with and lead as an Artistic Director and I think than engaging the stage director so early in the process is crucial to the final results since all the disicions about the staging as well as the treatment and synopsis have been made jointly considering the vision of every member of the team so that everyone has equal ownership in the outcome creating a very important balance from the beginning.

Co-producing Partners

Copenhagen Opera Festival


Oper Leipzig


Nedelandse Reisopera



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