Allan Clayton - Hamlet (detail) View full image

Hamlet - a new opera opens at Glyndebourne

Sunday 11 June

When Hamlet opens at Glyndebourne on Sunday, it will be the result of a remarkable collaboration between Australians Brett Dean and his wife, artist Heather Betts. When he was first approached to write a new opera for the Festival he was initially sceptical at the idea of "tampering with The Bard". Betts' reaction couldn't have been more different. "What would Will Shakespeare himself think? He'd say go for it!"

The suggestion of Hamlet immediately led Heather to forge ahead with creating drawings and artworks inspired by the text, in a fever of creativity, often pondering one single line from the play for days on end, resulting in many works around the same theme. Liberated by seeing how she was interpreting the text through modalities of colour, line and texture, he started to "hear" motives of his own Hamlet and eventually to start working on his opera.

The works in oil by Betts created during this cycle are being exhibited in the foyer at Glyndebourne throughout the Festival, works on paper were initially exhibited at Shapero Modern, Mayfair which hosted a Q & A with Betts and Dean exploring a unique collaboration that has seen them both immersed in the world of Shakespeare's Elsinore for the last six years.

Drawing others into their world, the collaborative process has continued with the creation of the libretto by Canadian, Matthew Jocelyn and the exploration of Hamlet by tenor, Allan Clayton. Involved in the project from an early stage, Clayton has made the part very much his own, forming it in the early workshops at Glyndebourne and delighting in a role that in his words is "a complete gift - it's been written so brilliantly, it lies in a good range. It has dramatic moments, moments of reflection. You don't get the sense that this is a singer. You get the sense that this is someone vocalising their thoughts."

Hamlet opened at the Glyndebourne Festival on 11 June with a live broadcast to cinemas on 6 July.

Heather Betts' works from her Hamlet series are being exhibited at Maestro Arts, the finissage with Heather Betts and Brett Dean will take place on 7 July, 6.30 - 8.30pm. The exhibition at Glyndebourne continues until 27 August.

Hamlet - Shapero Modern

Hamlet - Glyndebourne