Stuart MacRae

Libretto by Louise Welsh

Austrian Premiere 02/05/2020 / Salzburg State Theatre


On an expedition to the Polar Circle, a research ship is trapped in pack ice. Tensions surface and the relationships within the research team are put to the test. Everything changes when the scientists discover a frozen being in the icy wilderness. The ice breaks and a thrilling tale of climate change unfolds. The “Anthropocene” is the era dominated by humanity and the Arctic has long become a symbol for the indisputable and seemingly unstoppable destructive influence of human civilisation. The protagonists are crowded together as if on some kind of ark: Several scientists, the shipowner’s daughter, a shady journalist and a few sailors populate the ship of rich tycoon Harry King. The plot develops like that of a thriller and would make a fine script for a movie about climate change. Egotism, jealousy and incompetence lead to disaster on the ship. Louise Welsh’s enthralling libretto is further intensified by the dense, powerful and independent musical language of Scottish composer Stuart MacRae, which sees dissonances and melody compete and intertwine in film-like passages. The work premiered at the Scottish Opera to enthusiastic reviews celebrating its “unrelenting dramatic tension and superb storytelling”. Opera Now praised the “21st century opera”, The Herald pointed out its “cinematic score” and the London Times described it as “gripping music theatre”.

Stuart MacRae (*1976) is often cited among the most interesting contemporary composers. He was born in Inverness and studied at the Guildhall School of Music in London. He received commissions from the London Sinfonietta and the BBC Proms early on and became Composer in Residence at the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. “Anthropocene” is his third collaboration with Louise Welsh, who has made a name for herself as a writer of mystery thrillers.

Musical director Leslie Suganandarajah conducts the Continental European premiere of this exciting new opera and Agnessa Nefjodov is only the second director to mount “Anthropocene” after its world premiere. Her previous productions in Salzburg include Hossam Mahmoud’s opera “18 Days...” about the Egyptian revolution and Bellini’s “La Sonnambula”. She recently also staged “Boris Godunov”.

Introductory Talk: 30 and 45 min before curtain up


Musical Director Leslie Suganandarajah

Director Agnessa Nefjodov

Stage Design Eva Musil

Costume Design Nicole von Graevenitz

Musical Assistance Gabriel Venzago

Musikalische Einstudierung Wolfgang Götz

Orchestra Mozarteumorchester Salzburg