A modern opera that manages to be both intelligent and emotional

A modern opera that manages to be both intelligent and emotional


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2016

From the Lebrecht Album of the Week:

In the spring of 1985 I saw three opera world premieres in London in as many weeks. There was Busoni’s Doctor Faust in the restored original ending, Birtwistle’s breakthough opera The Mask of Orpheus and last, and smallest, Michael Nyman’s chamber opera on a troubling case history by the neurologist Oliver Sacks.

I felt confident at the time that Nyman’s opera would be revived soon and often, but that’s not how it goes. Chamber operas are notoriously hard to get staged, falling as they do between too many institutional stools….

Read on here.

And here.

nyman liverpool

And here.



  • OperaGene says:

    A small company, Urban Arias (http://www.urbanarias.org), based in Washington DC is presenting The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat on Oct 15-22.

  • Hilary says:

    This ought to be taken on at Sadlers Wells or the Linbury. It would sell out immediately.

  • David Osborne says:

    It’s a great piece, no doubt. I did a quick search and it is certainly clocking up a few performances, more than most.

  • Michael Pisani says:

    Nyman’s Man who Mistook His Wife…” is as close to an operatic masterpiece as we’ve come in the last 30 years (or one of the few, I should say). Maybe not a work to sit back and listen to, but a musico-dramatic masterpiece in the sense that the music (as well as the libretto) is in the service of a powerful philosophical message, putting this on the level of a thinking-person’s kind of opera. It’s reputation has been marred largely due to the terrible recording (and video), which is the only way most people had a chance to hear this. The original Dr. P. was completely incomprehensible (singing in English with nasal congestion), and the voices were sometimes overwhelmed by the miking of an orchestra obviously insensitive to the relationships between the parts. I have not yet heard this new recording, but I knew that it was in progress and have been looking forward to it with enthusiasm. I know that Nashville prepared a film at the same time as the recording, but I think there are problems that will prevent the film’s release. An excerpt from Nashville’s production is available on YouTube. From the clip I saw, the cast looks both visually and vocally ideal for the roles.