ENO presents the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie, conducted by ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins

20th September 2017 in Press

Nico Muhly

Director, Michael Mayer
Conductor, Martyn Brabbins

ENO presents the world premiere of Nico Muhly’s Marnie, conducted by ENO Music Director Martyn Brabbins

Opens Saturday 18 November at 7.30pm at the London Coliseum (5 performances)

Following his 2011 premiere of Two Boys at ENO, composer Nico Muhly returns to the company with this second world premiere, the psychological thriller Marnie.

Based on Winston Graham’s classic 1961 novel with a libretto by Nicholas Wright, Marnie will bring together an extraordinary array of operatic talent: it marks conductor Martyn Brabbins’ debut as Music Director at ENO and Tony Award-winning director Michael Mayer’s UK operatic debut. Grammy Award-winning mezzo-soprano Sasha Cooke will lead the cast in the title role, while Julian Crouch and 59 Productions return to ENO with their unique video designs.

The novel, also famously adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in the 1964 film of the same name, tells the story of Marnie as she embezzles money from her employers before changing her identity and moving on. Finally caught by her boss Mark Rutland and blackmailed into marriage, she must confront the hidden trauma in her past.

Nico Muhly is the youngest composer ever commissioned by the Metropolitan Opera, New York, a ‘phenomenon’ (Gramophone) whose work spans chamber works, sacred music, film scores as well as opera. His previous premiere for ENO, Two Boys, was called ‘serious and radiant’ by the New York Times and as ‘one of the most celebrated and sought after classical composers of the last decade’ (The Guardian) this premiere will be a major highlight of the operatic calendar; it will go on to play at the Met for the 2019/20 season.

Muhly comments:
I am particularly excited to present this premiere at ENO. Librettist Nicholas Wright and I have worked very closely with director Michael Mayer and the excellent design team of 59 Productions and Julian Crouch to create something particularly suited to ENO – a house committed to daring new productions. I am looking forward to working with the ENO Chorus again, with whom I had a great deal of fun during Two Boys, and am so pleased to work with Martyn Brabbins in his first production as ENO Music Director.’

Director Michael Mayer has helmed many of Broadway’s most impressive productions, winning the Tony Award for Best Director for Spring Awakening in 2007 and garnering great praise for his 2014 production of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. Having directed the 2012 Las Vegas-set Rigoletto for the Metropolitan Opera, New York, this marks his operatic debut on the London stage after directing the musical Funny Girl here in 2016.

Collaborating with Mayer will be the creative team of 59 Productions, who make a welcome return to the Coliseum after their work on numerous ENO productions including Two Boys as well as 2007’s Satyagraha and 2009’s Doctor Atomic. Also known for the video projection in the Opening Ceremony of the 2012 London Olympic Games and the Victoria and Albert Museum’s David Bowie is exhibition, lead designer Julian Crouch and his team will create the unreliable, ever-shifting world that Marnie inhabits.

Sasha Cooke creates the title role of Marnie. She was last seen at ENO as a ‘radiant-toned’ (The Observer) Kitty Oppenheimer in 2009’s Doctor Atomic, a role which in 2012 earned her a Grammy for Best Opera Recording along with the rest of the cast. Internationally she is known for her contemporary repertoire, most recently for creating the role of Laurene Powell Jobs in the premiere of (R)evolution of Steve Jobs earlier in 2017 (‘extraordinary lustre and wit’ – San Francisco Chronicle).

Canadian bass-baritone Daniel Okulitch creates the role of Marnie’s boss and later husband, Mark Rutland, in his company debut. Admired for his ‘richness, vigour and subtle lyricism’ (New York Times), he has previously created roles including Ennis in 2014’s Brokeback Mountain at the Teatro Real, Madrid. He is joined by ENO favourite Lesley Garrett as Mark’s mother Mrs Rutland. A star of the Coliseum since appearing as Yum-Yum in the original Jonathan Miller Mikado in 1986, she is also noted for her extensive recording and television work. Her performance in the 2016 world premiere of Mark Simpson’s opera Pleasure with Opera North was described as ‘astonishing’ (The Spectator).

Also appearing is countertenor James Laing singing as Terry, another man interested in Marnie. He was most recently seen at ENO as an ‘excellent’ (The Guardian) Armindo in 2017’s run of Partenope. English tenor and contemporary specialist Alasdair Elliott creates the role of Mr Strutt while Marnie’s Mother is sung by Kathleen Wilkinson.

ENO Harewood Artists Eleanor Dennis and Matthew Durkan take the roles of Laura and Malcolm Fleet respectively. The cast is completed by Diana Montague as Lucy and Darren Jeffery as Dr Roman.

Martyn Brabbins takes the conductor’s baton for his inaugural performance as ENO Music Director. A champion of contemporary music, he has conducted hundreds of premieres over his career, described as ‘the musician’s musician’ (The Guardian), making this an ideal start to his tenure at ENO.

Brabbins comments:
Performing and presenting new work is an absolutely integral part of what we do at ENO, and so it is a great thrill for me that Marnie is the first opera that I will be conducting as Music Director. I know that Nico has written the piece with the extraordinary capabilities of our award-winning Orchestra and Chorus in mind, enlisting them to tell the story through all kinds of exciting and innovative techniques. That key theme of duplicity is imaginatively embodied by the choral and orchestral forces in a way I think very cleverly utilises ENO’s rich musical resources. I look forward to sharing this exciting new work with audiences for the very first time.

The sixties-inspired costume design is by Oscar-nominated Arianne Phillips, whose film work has included Walk the Line, A Single Man, and Kingsman. She was nominated for a Tony Award for Costume Design for Hedwig and the Angry Inch, on which she worked with Michael Mayer. Also noted for her work as Madonna’s stylist, this marks her operatic debut.

The libretto is by Nicholas Wright, whose previous adaptations include the National Theatre’s 2003 staging of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials and the 2014 tour of Pat Barker’s Regeneration, along with numerous of original plays. His libretto for The Little Prince (music by Rachel Portman) was premiered at Houston Grand Opera in 2003 and his opera for television, Buzz on the Moon, (music by Jonathan Dove), went out on Channel 4 in 2006.

Marnie opens on Saturday 18 November at 7.30pm at the London Coliseum for 5 performances: 18, 28 November and 01 December at 7.30pm, 26 November at 6.30pm and 03 December at 3pm.

500 tickets for £20 or less are available for each performance. Tickets start from £12.

A co-production with the Metropolitan Opera, New York
World Premiere supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and a syndicate of donors
By Special Arrangement with Universal Pictures


Notes to Editors:

English National Opera is founded on the belief that opera of the highest quality should be accessible to everyone. We are a national company of international standard. We forge ground-breaking collaborations across art forms, and our world-class productions inspire, surprise, and captivate. We sing in English. We believe that singing in our own language connects the performers and the audience to the drama onstage, and enhances the experience for all. We bring our productions to the widest possible audience, whether at the London Coliseum, nationally or internationally. We make our work accessible by offering a large proportion of tickets at affordable prices, and by distributing it widely on screen and via digital media. We nurture talent across the entire company, whether on-stage, backstage, or in the pit. We provide a platform for young singers to develop global careers.

We tell the world’s most timeless stories, unforgettably.

59 Productions is the multi award-winning company of artists behind the video design of the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympic Games, the globe-trotting smash hit, War Horse, the design and creative direction of the record-breaking David Bowie is exhibition, and video design of Christopher Wheeldon’s celebrated stage adaptation of An American in Paris, for which they received a Tony Award in 2015.

Led by directors Leo Warner, Mark Grimmer, Lysander Ashton and Richard Slaney, 59 Productions are world-leading specialists in design for stage and live events. They are the go-to team for generating creative and technical ideas to realise ambitious artistic projects across a range of disciplines: from architectural projection mapping to exhibition design, VR experiences to events, theatrical design to technical consultancy.


Marnie – Sasha Cooke
Mark Rutland – Daniel Okulitch
Terry – James Laing
Mrs Rutland – Lesley Garrett
Lucy – Diana Montague
Mr Strutt – Alasdair Elliott
Marnie’s Mother – Kathleen Wilkinson
Laura Fleet – Eleanor Dennis
Malcolm Fleet – Matthew Durkan
Dr Roman – Darren Jeffery

Conductor – Martyn Brabbins