“the best new British opera we’ve seen for some time” The Telegraph

A new production of Tom Coult’s critically-acclaimed chamber opera Violet opens on 28 October at the Autohaus Hanser+Leiber, produced by Theater Ulm. The new production is directed by Rahel Thiel (Eugene Onegin, Nationaltheatre Mannheim; Alcina, Landestheater Coburg) and conducted by Hendrik Haas; costumes are by Maike Häber with Christian Stolz as dramaturg. It receives six performances, running until 21 December – details here.

The title role is sung by Maria Rosendorfsky, with Martin Gäbler playing her controlling husband Felix. The town’s Clockkeeper is sung by tenor Joshua Spink, and Carolina Krogius plays Violet’s maid and confidant Laura.

The 85-minute opera, scored for 13 instrumentalists with a text by Alice Birch, depicts an insular village community where each day grows progressively and exponentially shorter. As this catastrophe unfolds, the titular character finds a strange freedom from her domineering husband Felix and life of domestic drudgery, as the society around them unravels. Violet was commissioned by Music Theatre Wales and Britten Pears Arts, with assistance from co-commissioner Theatre Ulm.

Ulm will see Violet’s second production, after it premiered at the Aldeburgh Festival in June where it was directed by Jude Christian, and subsequently toured venues across the UK. Violet receives a third new production in Paris in April 2023 from director Jacques Osinski, produced by Compagnie L’Aurore Boréale and Théâtre de l’Aquarium; Bianca Chilemi conducts the Ensemble Carabanchel.

Violet received effusive reviews at its premiere. The Telegraph called Violet “the best new British opera we’ve seen for some time”. The Guardian praised the “authenticity” of Coult’s musical vision, describing “soaring soprano lines for Violet…over fragile, melting textures…contrasted with often blunt declamation for her husband.” Richard Fairman (Financial Times) heard in Coult’s music “a palpable sense of mysterious mortal threat”; as the opera progressed, the score became “thinner, sparer, each note more precious, as if the oxygen is running out”.

Tom Coult writes of the opera:

The music is greatly varied. Some parts are highly dissonant, others quasi-tonal. There is music inspired by Japanese gagaku, by lounge jazz, by Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater. There are no motifs associated with characters, but there is music that returns, often changed…as the village’s sense of time is distorted and hope is extinguished, I have tried to make the music itself become more desiccated, frayed, curdled. There are more silences, the tuning and instrumentation start to melt in the heat…the final portion of the opera contains some of the strangest music I’ve ever written.