What to expect from Glyndebourne’s Hamlet

Glyndebourne - November 14-18

One of the greatest pieces of literature ever written, it has inspired everyone from Laurence Olivier to Mel Gibson, from Tom Stoppard to The Simpsons.

One of the world’s greatest opera companies presents a fresh take on Hamlet, when Glyndebourne arrive here next month. They’re bringing a production from Australian composer Brett Dean, one which had its world premiere just this summer. We’re taking a look ahead at what you can expect.


We’re all (vaguely) familiar with Shakespeare’s story: Hamlet returns home on the death of his father, only to find his murderous uncle having an affair with his mother. From that point on, Hamlet is faced with a choice; to avenge or not to avenge. And that’s pretty much it, give or take the presence of a ghost, a mad and suicidal lover, a troupe of actors, and a poisonous duel to the death.

For a slightly more in-depth version that explains how all those parts come together, take a look at this animated summary:


Of course, this version tells the age-old story through the medium of opera. According to librettist Matthew Jocelyn (whose job it is to provide the words), that’s an opportunity to “experiment with the form of narration,” allowing them to bring out the nuances and emotions that words can’t convey:


Shakespeare’s longest play, Hamlet runs to 29,551 words. Despite numerous attempts to stage it as an opera, none has ever been really successful. So it must have been a daunting job. In an interview with the Telegraph, Dean admits: “I was vaguely perturbed. But [my wife] asked me what Will Shakespeare’s reaction would have been, and it’s clear that he would have said: ‘Go for it!’”

Ophelia (Barbara Hannigan) and Hamlet (Allan Clayton)
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Gertrude (Sarah Connolly), Laertes (David Butt Philip), Claudius (Rod Gilfry), Horatio (Jacques Imbrailo) and Hamlet (Allan Clayton)
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Horatio (Jacques Imbrailo), Gravedigger (John Tomlinson) and Hamlet (Allan
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith
Hamlet (Allan Clayton) and Polonius (Kim Begley)
Photo: Richard Hubert Smith


Glyndebourne are here with three breath-taking operas from 14-18 November. Buy tickets now at Norwich Theatre Royal.