Donnacha Dennehy's 'The Second Violinist' receives its UK premiere

Donnacha Dennehy's 'The Second Violinist' receives its UK premiere
Aaron Monaghan as The Second Violinist © Patrick Redmond

Following a critically acclaimed 2017 world premiere in Ireland, composer Donnacha Dennehy and writer/director Enda Walsh's latest collaboration, The Second Violinist, will be given its UK premiere at the Barbican Theatre from September 6-8. This modern chamber opera tells the foreboding story of a musician’s life falling apart and unfolds like an unnerving thriller driven along by a haunting and compulsive score. 

Co-commissioned and co-produced by Irish National Opera and Landmark Productions, The Second Violinist removes the boundaries between opera and theatre, past and present, fact and fiction, revealing a troubled musician who is consumed by social media platforms, morbid fantasies and violent video games. Seeking solace in the music of Italian Renaissance composer Carlo Gesualdo, his inner turmoil becomes ever more apparent as he searches for beauty in a dark, dark world.

Librettist Enda Walsh directs this production which was awarded the Fedora – Generali Prize for Opera 2017. The cast features one of Ireland's leading actors, Aaron Monaghan, in the titular role, and singers Máire Flavin, Sharon Carty and Benedict Nelson. Ryan McAdams conducts Crash Ensemble and chorus.

'Subtext is as important as text to me.' Dennehy notes, 'the music, as it were, powers the subtext; and an important ingredient in the music for The Second Violinist is a thread made of deconstructed, re-fashioned strains of Gesualdo. The main protagonist's interest in the music of Gesualdo is sporadically made explicit in the actual text of this opera (especially in the projected messages between him and Scarlett38) but it carries even greater portent in the score. These strains even inform the flowering overtone textures that become ever more radiant as the opera proceeds, creating a friction between the almost ecstatic luminosity of the score and the brutal reality of the plot. This contradiction of course lies at the heart of the real life story of Gesualdo, the Renaissance composer – his yearning, beautifully strange music seems to be in stark contradiction to his grubby real-life act of killing his wife and her lover.'

Following the UK premiere, The Second Violinist will receive its Dutch Premiere on March 7-9 2019 at Dutch National Opera.

Book Tickets: Barbican | Dutch National Opera

Behind the Scenes: Cast Interviews

Go behind the scenes of the world premiere production and meet Sharon Carty, Maire Flavin and Benedict Nelson, and Fergus Sheil from the cast of The Second Violinist.

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