An operatic thriller with a most unusual hero
We are delighted to announce a new commission and world premiere for 2023: Itch. Based on Simon Mayo’s bestselling novels Itch and and Itch Rocks, composer Jonathan Dove and librettist Alasdair Middleton have been commissioned to create a new opera for Opera Holland Park. Its hero is Itchingham Holte, a teenage scientist on a mission to collect all the elements in the periodic table.
Described as ‘Breaking Bad for kids’ by NPR in America, the Itch books explore the magical properties of the elements through an adventure story of explosive proportions as the young hero tries to outrun a vindictive teacher, a global corporation and a shadowy government agency in his quest to save the world. Dove, whose 1998 opera Flight was produced by Opera Holland Park in 2015, and Middleton, the librettist of five of Dove’s operas, have identified a story “full of intense feelings, which is where opera thrives”, and point to the Nordic legend of The Ring as a parallel adventure of discovery, peril and return – but with science as the source of the magic. Move over, Siegfried. Itch is here!
Simon Mayo and Jonathan Dove in conversation
Listen to the latest episode of our podcast, From the Producer’s Office, as James discusses Itch with Simon Mayo and Jonathan Dove. In this episode they discuss how the commission came about, talk about the novel’s plot and the inspirations behind it, and draw parallels between Itch and some other operas listeners might be familiar with.
Simon Mayo – Author
Simon Mayo is a mainstay of UK radio, hosting a daily national show since 1987 on BBC Radio 1, Radio 2, 5Live and Scala Radio. His award-winning film review show with Mark Kermode has been running since 2001. He is also the host of the Books of the Year podcast. Simon is also the author of the best-selling Itch trilogy (Itch, Itch Rocks, Itchcraft). Itch has been filmed by the ABC for television, debuting in Australia in 2019, then the UK and USA in 2020. His other books include Mad Blood Stirring, Blame and Knife Edge.
Alasdair Middleton – Librettist
Alasdair’s work as a librettist includes: with Jonathan Dove – The Monster in the Maze (Berliner Philharmoniker, London Symphony Orchestra, Aix-en-Provence Festival), Diana and Actaeon (Royal Ballet), Seasons and Charms (Aldeburgh Festival), The Walk From The Garden (Aegeas Salisbury International Arts Festival), Life Is A Dream (Birmingham Opera), Mansfield Park (Heritage Opera), Swanhunter (Opera North), The Enchanted Pig (The Young Vic, ROH2), The Adventures of Pinocchio (Opera North), and the cantata On Spital Fields (Spitalfields Festival, winner of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award).
Other works include: Elizabeth (ROH), Pinocchio (National Ballet of Canada, Texas Balletcs), The Secret Garden (Sarasota Ballet), Pleasure’s Progress (ROH2), Who Is This That Comes (Opera North) and The Crane Maiden (KAAT Yokohama). The World Was All Before Them, On London Fields (winner of a Royal Philharmonic Society Award), A Bird In Your Ear (New York City Opera), The North Wind Was A Woman (A Song Cycle for Dawn Upshaw), The Picture of Dorian Grey (Danish National Opera), Everything Money Can Buy (Selfridges) and The Feathered Friend. Alasdair has also written four plays.
Jonathan Dove – Composer
Jonathan Dove is the most widely-performed living opera composer in the UK, and among the five most performed in the world. He has consistently explored what opera can be, and what audiences it can reach. His breakthrough opera, the airport comedy Flight, has enjoyed more than thirty productions internationally. His first television opera, When She Died, was seen by over two million people. The Monster in the Maze, a community opera co-commissioned by the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, the London Symphony Orchestra and the Festival International d’Art Lyrique d’Aix-en-Provence, was premiered in Berlin, London and Aix under Sir Simon Rattle and won a British Composer Award. It has had twelve productions in its first five years, in English, French, German, Portuguese, Catalan, Swedish and Chinese/Taiwanese. A Dutch production has been temporarily halted by Covid-19.
10 of Dove’s 29 operas were written with Alasdair Middleton, in a collaboration stretching over more than 20 years which also includes ballet, music-theatre, song-cycles and choral works. Several of their operas are for a family audience. The first production of The Enchanted Pig had 150 performances in the UK and US. It was followed by The Adventures of Pinocchio, which won a British Composer Award. The opera Jonathan has written with Alasdair Middleton include: The Hackney Chronicles (2001), The Enchanted Pig (2006), An Old Way to Pay New Debts (2006), The Adventures of Pinocchio (2007), Swanhunter (2009), Seven Angels (2010), Mansfield Park (2011), Life is a Dream (2012), The Walk from the Garden (2012), The Monster in the Maze (2015).
Jonathan Dove won the 2008 Ivor Novello Award for classical music. He was made a Commander of the Order of the British Empire (CBE) in the Queen’s 2019 Birthday Honours for services to music.
To lift this commission off the page and onto the Opera Holland Park stage, we are seeking support. To find out more about how you can bring Itch to life, please contact Rosamund Hatfield on firstname.lastname@example.org