Name a British composer who’s had an opera premiered in Vienna

Try as we might, we cannot think of one. Concert premieres, to be sure, but the world premiere of a new opera in the city of Mozart and Strauss? Never.

Well, stand by fora piece of history in the making.

My name is Iain Bell and I am a 33-year old classical composer. My opera ‘A Harlot’s Progress’ (based on the Hogarth series of etchings to a libretto by Peter Ackroyd) is due to receive its world premiere in Vienna’s Theater an der Wien on Sunday October 13th.  

In the final run-in to the first performance, Iain will be writig a daily blog on Slipped Disc, starting tomorrow.

Watch this space.

iain bell

photo: (c) Iain Bell/Slipped Disc.

Is that a rehearsal room, or my favourite café?


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  • History was already made twice in the 18th-century by Stephen Storace. He and his sister are hardly obscure figures.

    Hugely popular in their day were also the lighter works of Sidney Jones and Michael W. Balfe. Six operas that Balfe reworked and retrofitted with German libretti saw their premieres in Vienna.

    In recent years the Festwochen, Wien Modern, Neue Oper Wien and Kammeroper have promoted many English operas (Maxwell Davies, Dove, Weir etc). The Staatsoper and Theater an der Wien have covered the major Britten works with acclaimed productions. There was a Festwochen tour-stop for Written on Skin just a few months ago. Including Salzburg’s Gawain, the only Birtwistle opera *not* to have been staged in Vienna/Austria over the last twenty years is the Minotaur. I wonder how many cities outside of London can rival that.

    It’s nice to have Iain Bell here and I look forward to seeing his Harlot’s Progress, but let’s not hype 20th-century and contemporary British opera in Vienna as something new and exotic. It’s not remotely accurate.

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