Cocteau in the Underworld


Arcola Theatre


A new opera about the poet, filmmaker, artist, novelist and opium addict Jean Cocteau, drawing on incidents from his life and themes from his work to create a compelling dramatic experience.


Cocteau is finding it hard to begin work on a new project. His creative block seems to stem from his grief – and guilt – over the death of a young lover. He is visited by a glamorous stranger who somehow knows the secrets of Cocteau’s past and holds the key to his future. She has the power to unlock his creativity, but first he must accept her potent magical gift – a gift that will enable him to follow in Orpheus’s footsteps and cross the boundary to another world in order to confront his dead lover. At the same time he must make a character-defining choice between creativity and love.

The piece was presented in full by Metta Theatre in association with New Music Players as a work-in-progress showing at Grimeborn Festival, Arcola Theatre, in August 2010. It further explored the use of film to create an inter-disciplinary work of live and pre-recorded video and opera. Live characters who inhabit the space interacted with visually pre-recorded (but live sung) characters who physically break through into the live space. The full version of the work was scored for a cast of five (Soprano: Eurydice; Mezzo: Princess Death; Counter-tenor: Raymond Radiguet; Tenor: Orpheus; Baritone: Cocteau) with a projected ensemble of nine players plus electronics.

Prior to this the piece was developed with the assistance and support of ROH2’s Opera Genesis programme, under the direction of John Lloyd Davies. Extracts  were performed as part of the 2009 Brighton Festival with a limited scoring of piano and electronics. These performances featured a projected video sequence devised by Metta Theatre’s Poppy Burton-Morgan and William Reynolds.




Composer | Ed Hughes
Librettist | Roger Morris
Director | Poppy Burton-Morgan
Conductor | Carlos Del Cueto
Designer | William Reynolds


Pianist | Richard Casey
Cocteau (baritone) | Andrew McIntosh
Princess (mezzo) | Lucy Williams
Orpheus (tenor) | Peter Kirk
Euridice (soprano) | Emily Phillips
Raymond (counter-tenor) | Ben Williamson
Euridice (video artist) | Loren O’Dair