Commissioned by James Clutton for Opera Holland Park with support from the Canadian Opera Company

Commissioner exclusivity applies

  • 2S,Mz,Ct,2T,bbar + [1](pic).0.0(bcl)[+a-cl].[1](cbn)/0+f-hn.0+ctpt.0.0/timp.perc/[pf](cel,kbd).hp/
  • Soprano, Soprano, Mezzo-soprano, Countertenor, Tenor, Tenor, Bass Baritone. Bass Baritone
  • 1 hr 40 min
  • Alasdair Middleton, based on the Itch novels by Simon Mayo
  • English

Programme Note

Commissioned by Opera Holland Park in a co-production with the Canadian Opera Company, Toronto, Itch is an explosive new opera from composer Jonathan Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton. Adapted from Simon Mayo’s best-selling novels, Itch and Itch Rocks, with a sparkling ensemble cast and a soundworld that speaks of dangerous treasures, this is an element-hunting thriller spliced with brilliant operatic set pieces and big emotions.



Deep in the earth something is shifting 


Itchingham Lofte (Itch) has burned his eyebrows – and singed his bedroom carpet – in a  botched chemistry experiment. Jack, his sister, worries about what their Mum is going to  say. Jude, their Mum, arrives home and banishes Itch’s scientific ‘junk’ to the garden  shed. Itch protests – this ‘junk’ is his collection of chemical elements. He introduces his  Mum and sister to the periodic table and reveals his wish to collect all of its 118 elements. Unmoved, Jude insists Itch’s stuff is taken outside just as his father, Nicholas,  gets home from work. Itch wishes he had arrived earlier and asks if he can have some  sodium or uranium for his birthday. 

Nicholas has arranged school holiday jobs for Itch and Jack at the tin mine gift shop. Bob,  the owner, takes them down the mine and tells them that after the recent earthquake  new, deeper shafts have opened up. Jack steals a lump of tin ore for Itch’s collection. 

By the sea, Itch introduces Jack to Cake, a hippy surfer, who has helped Itch with his  collection. Cake has found some old rocks, which he thinks might be uranium, near the  mine. He gives one of the rocks to Itch as a present. 

At school (an academy sponsored by Greencorps, a multinational energy company)  science teacher Watkins demonstrates the powerful reaction of sodium and water. After  class Itch shows Watkins his new rock which appears to be getting warmer and brighter.  Nathaniel Flowerdew, a fellow science teacher and former Greencorps high-flier, is  fascinated with Itch’s strange rock and runs some tests on it. Flowerdew’s Geiger  counter goes off the scale and he takes the rock away to run further tests. Jack steals  some sodium for Itch’s collection. 

Flowerdew video-calls Roshanna, head of Greencorps, who is initially dismissive of him,  due to his past failures. But her attitude changes when Flowerdew informs her of his  discovery – a potential new powerful source of energy which he hopes will secure his  position back in Greencorps head office. 

Independently, Itch with Watkins and Flowerdew relish the discovery of a new element  that has the power to change life for the better … or worse. 

At school, Itch asks for his rock back but Flowerdew says he has sent it away for further  tests. Jack accuses him of stealing it and suspects he’s lying. Whilst Flowerdew is talking  to Roshanna, Itch and Jack steal the rock back. A Greencorps courier arrives to collect  the rock and Flowerdew is astonished to find it missing. Roshanna dismisses him.  Flowerdew is determined to get the rock back and to thwart Greencorps. 

Flowerdew demands the rock back from Itch and threatens to kill him. Watkins  intervenes and Flowerdew escapes without the rock as police sirens are heard. Nicholas arrives, once again too late to help Itch. He tells Itch that their house has been  ransacked. 

By the sea Itch and Jack are looking for Cake to find out where the rock came from but  find him dying of contamination. He tells Itch not to entrust the rocks to anyone and  return them back to the earth. Flowerdew is making contact with a nefarious buyer  whilst Roshanna briefs the Greencorps Board about the new element they must obtain.  Watkins wonders if the earth is looking after itself by sending them this new source of  green energy. Both Greencorps (Roshanna and Berghahn posing as journalists) and  Flowerdew and his sidekick Kinch are on the hunt for Itch and Jack and their precious  rocks. They manage to escape from Greencorps. But…


Flowerdew and Kinch nab Itch and Jack and bundle them into a car and start the long  journey to London where Flowerdew will hand over the rocks and the kids to his  underworld contacts. Roshanna orders Berghahn to intercept Flowerdew’s car and grab  the kids and the rocks. 

As with Cake, Itch and Jack are becoming dangerously contaminated and Jack says she is  going to be sick. Kinch convinces Flowerdew to stop for a rest and they break into an  empty house. Flowerdew orders Kinch to keep an eye on the troublesome teenagers and  to empty Itch’s rucksack. Kinch does so but only finds bits of ‘junk’ – batteries, test tubes  and other boy’s stuff. 

Itch questions his desire to collect all the elements. Perhaps it is just junk after all. Jack  disagrees and tries to cheer her brother up in his moment of despair. Suddenly Itch  realises he has a capsule of Xenon amongst this ‘junk’ – a powerful anaesthetic.  

As Jack sleeps, Itch ponders the power of this new element – it’s ability to save the world  but in the wrong hands the power to destroy it. What should he do with it? 

At school Watkins tells Nicholas about his kids being abducted. Watkins agrees with him  that they have to try and find them before it’s too late. 

When the car journey resumes Itch feigns a vomiting attack and Jack and him get out of  the car. And they do. Itch slams the door shut on the Xenon capsule which releases gas  incapacitating Flowerdew and Kinch. Itch and Jack are once again on the run with the  rocks. 

Roshanna insists that Berghahn get hold of the rocks before either the Government or  the police do otherwise they are finished. 

At a railway station, Itch and Jack dodge Berghahn. Itch insists Jack and him split up. Jack  needs to seek urgent medical help – Itch needs to do something on his own.  

Fighting radiation sickness Itch goes into the watery depths of the mine with the bag of  rocks. At the point of losing consciousness he attaches sodium to the bag and hurls them  into the water, back to the earth. He collapses. But someone arrives just in time to save  him and carry Itch back up to the light.

Alasdair Middleton


Jonathan Dove talks about his inspiration behind his new opera Itch including working with librettist Alasdair Middleton, working with Simon Mayo on whose books the opera is based on, as well as choosing the right singers and orchestration for the piece.
Castle of the Elements: Adam Temple Smith sings the role of Itchingham Lofte in Itch
I comb the beaches: From Itch, performed by James Laing


Vocal Score
Full Score


More Info