English National Opera Stages New Production of Philip Glass’s Orphée

4th November 2019 in Press

Opens Friday 15 November at 7.30pm (6 performances)

Following English National Opera’s (ENO) acclaimed Satyagraha and the Olivier Award-winning Akhnaten, this season brings a new staging of Philip Glass’s Orphée to the London Coliseum.

Based on the 1950 Jean Cocteau film of the same name, Glass’s mesmerising opera is directed by Netia Jones, ‘the most imaginative director of opera working in Britain today’ (the Observer), making her ENO debut.

Orphée combines live action and projection, including fragments of Cocteau’s celebrated film.

Netia comments: ‘Orphée is a mirror of a mirror, or a “mise-en-abîme” – an opera of a film of a play of a poem of an opera, in which everything reflects on something else.’

This new production of Orphée uses Cocteau’s film as a starting point, reflecting on Cocteau’s fascination with the mechanics and poetics of film, the life of the artist and ideas of success, failure, ambition, immortality and betrayal.

The production forms part of ENO’s Orpheus series, a reimagining of four operas exploring the Orpheus myth in autumn 2019. Each is interpreted by four directors from diverse theatrical disciplines, all in sets by renowned designer Lizzie Clachan.

Poet Orphée has become passé. Having lost his creative impetus, and becoming implicated in the death of the young and successful poet Cégeste, he becomes obsessed with achieving immortality. Though married to Eurydice, he falls in love with an enigmatic ‘Princess’ and moves between the worlds of the living and the dead. It is only after the Princess sacrifices herself to make Orphée immortal, that he and Eurydice can resume their life together.

Critically acclaimed Nicholas Lester takes the role of Orphée. His previous engagements for ENO were as Marcello in La bohème and Vicomte Cascada in The Merry Widow. He will be joined by another former Merry Widow cast member, Sarah Tynan. ENO favourite Sarah sings her second of two Eurydice roles this season, jumping straight in from a performance in Wayne McGregor’s season opener Orpheus and Eurydice, in which she delivered a performance ‘sung with shining clarity’ (Daily Telegraph).

Established star Nicky Spence joins the cast as Heurtebise, the Princess’s chauffeur. Nicky is a former ENO Harewood Artist whom ENO regulars will recognise as Sergeant Johnny Strong from the world premiere of Ian Bell’s Jack the Ripper: The Women of Whitechapel last season. Soprano Jennifer France makes her ENO debut as the Princess. Trained at the Royal Academy of Music, Jennifer was the recipient of the 2018 Critic’s Circle ‘Emerging Talent (Voice)’ Award.

Anthony Gregory sings Cégeste, combining his strong tenor with a critically praised timbre. The cast is completed by Clive Bayley as the Judge and Simon Shibambu as the Poet, whilst Rachael Lloyd is Aglaonice and William Morgan sings the Reporter.

Geoffrey Paterson conducts. Lighting design is by Lucy Carter and choreography is by Danielle Agami. Video and animation are by Lightmap. Netia Jones and Emma Jenkins have translated the libretto.

The live photographer is Cordula Treml.


Orphée opens Friday 15 November at 19.30 at the London Coliseum for 6 performances: 15, 18, 20, 25, 27, 29 November at 19.30.

Tickets start from £10 (plus booking fee)*

*£2.25 booking fee applies to online and telephone bookings



Notes to Editors:

About English National Opera

English National Opera is the national opera company dedicated to one simple aim: making opera for everyone. We sing in English to be as accessible to the widest possible audience, as well as offering tickets for as little as ten pounds and we create opera that feels different, more theatrical and creatively daring. We’ve been doing this to an internationally recognised standard since being founded in 1931 as Sadler’s Wells Opera.

We are determined to open up the genre: nearly half of our audiences in 2018/19 were first-time bookers. Our learning and participation programme ENO Baylis last year touched the lives of more than 15,000 school children and community groups, and our talent development programme nurtures the careers of singers (the ENO Harewood Artist programme) and conductors (the Charles Mackerras Fellowship). We also give free tickets to Under 18s in our balcony for opening nights, Friday and Saturday performances.

Last year, the percentage of audience members under 44 increased by 13% year-on-year and the proportion of our audience with a black or minority ethnic background increased from 4% to 10%. In January of this year, we announced that we would be recruiting four new members of our Chorus from a BAME background, as well as four BAME Director Observerships.

Our ongoing support and development of British talent meant 80% of the cast in the 2017-18 season were British or British trained. That’s important to us and is fundamental to our ethos of giving new talent their break.

ENO is about opera for everyone.



Philip Glass
Libretto by the composer based on the film by Jean Cocteau, adaption by Philip Glass, edited by Robert Brustein

Conductor, Geoffrey Paterson
Director, Netia Jones


Orphée Nicholas Lester
Eurydice Sarah Tynan
Princess Jennifer France
Heurtebise Nicky Spence
Cégeste Anthony Gregory
Judge/Commissaire Clive Bayley
Poet Simon Shibambu
Aglaonice Rachael Lloyd
Reporter William Morgan