Thursday 4 April 2024

States of Innocence: Ed Hughes' new opera after Paradise Lost premieres at the Brighton Festival with Sir John Tomlinson

Milton Dictating to His Daughter, Henry Fuseli (1794)
Milton Dictating to His Daughter, Henry Fuseli (1794)

The year 2024 marks the 350th anniversary of Milton’s death however it is a brave dramatist who takes on the epic poem Paradise Lost, completed in 1667 by John Milton (1608-1674). But that is what composer Ed Hughes and writer Peter Cant have done. Their new opera, States of Innocence, an opera after Paradise Lost, premieres at the Brighton Festival on 19 May 2024. The work has been specially conceived and developed for the Brighton Festival 2024.

For States of Innocence, librettist Peter Cant drew on Milton's poem, and The Woman’s Bible (1895) by Elizabeth Cady Stanton, which radically challenged the orthodoxy that woman should be subservient to man. In the opera we encounter poet and republican John Milton as a character on stage, dreaming of Angels and the Tree of Knowledge; and, now blind, and living in fear of reprisals from the restored Stuart monarchy, dictating his poem to a chorus of Readers.  His Wife and Assistant (based on historical characters who served as Milton's amanuenses) engage with and contribute to the story. Wife becomes Eve, the Assistant becomes Satan, and as the domestic scenario takes a dream-like turn we enter the Garden, and the events of the Fall are enacted.

The performances feature Sir John Tomlinson as Milton with Stuart Jackson, Rozanna Madylus, Tim Morgan, and Rachel Duckett, directed by Tim Hopkins, with projections designed by Ian Winters. Andrew Gourlay conducts the New Music Players.

Full details from the Brighton Festival website.

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