An introduction to The Day After

Here’s everything you need to know about ENO’s production of Jonathan Dove’s The Day After.

It was originally intended to be staged outside

Originally composed for Holland Opera, Dove composed The Day After with the specific intent of being performed in an outdoor space. Its premiere took place at Fort Rijnauwen, a large dilapidated fort in the Netherlands near Bunnik. A unique space that looks post-Apocalyptic in itself, the fort has been slowly reclaimed by the elements, with foliage overrunning the bleak concrete structures. The original staging included pyrotechnics, industrial steel and Phoebus’s chariot itself, masqueraded as a giant jet engine.

Whilst our staging isn’t outside, Camilla Clarke‘s set design and costumes bring the world of The Day After to life, without losing the sheer visual spectacle originally intended.

It’s based on the myth of Phaeton

Taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses (‘Book of Transformations’), the myth of Phaeton goes something like this… Phaeton, son of sun god Phoebus, takes the reins of the sun chariot, causing widespread destruction. To avoid further devastation, Phoebus fells his own son, striking him from the heavens with a thunderbolt.

The Day After, however, is a story within a story. Whilst telling the myth of Phaeton, the opera is presented as a recollection of a family living in a post-Apocalyptic world, telling how the world came to ruin. With this comes an uncertainty – is this truly the way the world fell, or a fabrication to explain how their current landscape came to be? By mixing the old with the new Dove’s framing of the story is unique in its perspective.

Avid ENO Studio Live attendees might notice a link between The Day After and another previous production – 2018’s Acis and Galateawhich was a Handel opera also taken from Ovid’s Metamorphoses. If you wish to learn more about operas based on myths and legends, our article will scratch that itch:

Operas based on myths and legends

Our production was first seen in 2017

ENO’s production differed significantly from the original, most notably in an entirely different orchestration from the original – a choral version of the work was premiered by the 2017 cast, introducing an SATB choir to the small main cast.

As part of our ENO Studio Live, Jamie Manton’s production of The Day After was first staged at Lilian Baylis House, our rehearsal studios in West Hampstead, to positive reviews. Moving in 2020 to Alexandra Palace, the production has the opportunity to present the intimate story on a larger stage.

The libretto was written by April De Angelis

Also known for collaborating on Jonathan Dove’s biggest success to date, April De Angelis wrote the libretto for Flight, a 1998 opera that gained international acclaim for being a modern comedic opera. Additionally, she wrote the libretto to The Silent Twins, an opera written by Errollyn Wallen that also enjoyed critical acclaim in its original production in Almeida Theatre.

Outside opera, De Angelis is a well-known dramatist in her own right. She is known for writing plays involving historical figures,including her most famous work – Playhouse Creatures, a 1993 play set in the west-end of 17th century London. Having several revivals across the nation, the play was well received by theatre-goers.

Jonathan Dove’s The Day After is on at Alexandra Palace Theatre from 30 Apr – 2 May 2020. Find out more and book tickets below.