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Richard Dawkins in 'mysterious' world premiere

25 Jan 2016

University lecturer stages opera based on a controversial unfinished novel by Mark Twain

The voice of one of the country’s best known atheists can be heard in an opera based on a controversial unfinished novel by Mark Twain, which premieres tonight (Monday, 25 January).

The opera, written by University lecturer in composition Dr Kevin Malone, is based on the celebrated American author’s final novel, written between 1897 and 1908 and never completed.

Dr Malone wrote the narrative, libretto and music for ‘Mysterious 44’, which will be premiered tonight at the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM) as part of the New Music North West Festival.

Four live singers, a singing computer, video animation, and a surround-sound electronic score will entertain the audience.

There are eight characters played by four singers and Richard Dawkins, who voices the alter-protagonist, August, a renaissance man coming out of the dark ages.

Inspired by the writings of Darwin, Twain’s story is set in 1490, a few decades after the invention of Gutenberg's press and the start of the Renaissance.

Three boys are approached by a mysterious stranger who calls himself "44" after a wrongly-accused woman is stoned to death.

Like the monolith in ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’, the stranger sparks self-realisation, and one boy steps forward to question superstition and religion.

Dr Malone says: “This is a personal yet universal story where each person who sees it will ask themselves about their belief systems, and how they view other people's beliefs. This is especially important in this era with escalating conflicts about different faith, non-believers, and science."


The opera will be performed:

  • Monday, 25 January, 7pm, At RNCM as part of the NEW MUSIC NORTH WEST FESTIVAL (£7/£13/£15).
  • Friday, 29 January, 7.30pm at Z-Arts Theatre, Hulme (£7/£12)
  • Monday, 1 February, 5.15pm at Manchester Central Library (£10). This performance is preceded by a talk by the composer at 4.45pm.

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