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Music Text

Libretto by Matthew Jocelyn after William Shakespeare (E)


Major roles: colS,M,2CT,2T,Bar,BBar,B; minor roles to be sung by chorus members; chorus;

* from within these numbers, two identical trios will be taken, each consisting of 1 clarinet, 1 trumpet and 1 percussion, to be stationed in the theatre throughout.

A sound designer for the PA system is recommended

Abbreviations (PDF)

For full details on this stagework, including synopsis and roles, please visit our Opera section.


This work is available from Boosey & Hawkes for the world.


World Premiere
Glyndebourne Opera House, Lewes
Neil Armfield, director / Glyndebourne Chorus / London Philharmonic Orchestra / Vladimir Jurowski
Composer's Notes

There is no definitive version of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. There were at least three versions printed within his lifetime or shortly thereafter, and endless variations, including the most commonly used 1st Folio, and an incalculable number of conflated versions.

Our Hamlet relies heavily on Shakespeare’s verse, if not necessarily on the standard chronology of scenes. The opera concentrates primarily on the domestic drama, exploring the depths of Hamlet’s quest for both understanding and revenge, from the death of his father through to his own demise.

This quest is relayed through the fragmentary nature of his relationships with those in his inner circle. It is this very fragmentation – as well as the lack of a definitive text upon which to base the opera – that allows us to explore the most effective and poetically resonant assemblage of story-lines.
Brett Dean

Press Quotes

"Brilliant music, rapturously received... Dean is rare among contemporary opera composers in understanding how to present people singing together - the forceful duets, ensembles and choruses are highlights of the score..."
Daily Telegraph

"…a dark, complex, sometimes wryly postmodern slant on the play… there are no limits to where Dean finds his music – amplified chattering noises, singing groups from the balconies, and a virtuoso array of orchestral effects like the gravedigger’s otherworldly whistling."
Financial Times

...this is the operatic event of the year... The orchestra evokes Dean's grippingly atmospheric sounds with a fascinating spectrum of colour and unerring virtuosity."
Sunday Times

"... it rises to the challenge set by Shakespeare’s great play... new opera doesn’t often get to sound this good."
The Guardian

"…heart-wrenchingly beautiful opera... sonically mesmerising."
Sydney Morning Herald

"…a psychological drama has been created which focuses on the tense web of relationships in the Danish royal family."
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Recommended Recording

Allan Clayton, Barbara Hannigan, Sarah Connolly, Rod Gilfry, Kim Begley, John Tomlinson, David Butt Philip, Jacques Imbrailo / London Philharmonic Orchestra / The Glyndebourne Chorus / Vladimir Jurowski, cond. / Neil Armfield, dir. (Glyndebourne 2017, WP)
Opus Arte OA 1254 D (DVD) / OA BD7231 D (Blu-ray)

Buy the DVD from Amazon


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