Contemporary opera returns to the Castell de Peralada Festival with a work by genius Rufus Wainwright, with the collaboration of the Teatro Real. The artist, who has confessed to having been fascinated by the world of opera from a very young age, will this summer present his second work in the field of opera composition at the Theatre Royal in Madrid (27 July) and two days later at the Castell de Peralada Festival (29 July). Hadrian, based on Roman Emperor Hadrian, has the perfect ingredients for the plot of a classical opera as it tells the story of the love between Hadrian and his young lover.

The staging, devised by Jörn Weisbrodt, is a completely different interpretation to the one premiered at Opera Canada by the Canadian Opera Company in 2018. Here, the opera takes the stage stripped of scenery and of many singers, to give way to a radicalisation and a visual emotional expression of the intrinsic dramatic quality inherent to opera. Weisbrodt, in this concert staging, presents a narrative built with images by iconic American photographer Robert Mapplethorpe, through which the spectator experiences the tensions and tumults of the characters, as they learn the story of a dejected emperor who once had it all, but was deprived of the one thing he had ever truly desired.

Rufus Wainwright’s Hadrian is an opera in four acts, deep, complex and convincing, of which the protagonists are rich characters who suffer profound, moving changes during the course of the opera. The piece, according to the composer, is written in the operatic style of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when opera was a truly popular musical art form and people sang opera tunes in the street. In the eyes of its creator, this contemporary opera seeks to revive opera and to reconnect it with an age in which it was more popular, to give a new perspective on contemporary opera and to tell a new story, a story of same-sex love, to a contemporary audience, but using melody, harmony, profound emotion, arias and ensemble scenes all in the manner of grand opera.

The libretto, work of celebrated Canadian dramatist Daniel MacIvor, recreates the story of the last day of the Roman emperor, who ruled from 117-138 BCE. Hadrian is better known for the construction of the wall in Great Britain that bears his name and for the conflict in Judea brought about by the rise of monotheism. But he is scarcely known at all for what could be his most significant legacy, the fact that he lived openly as a homosexual man and his profound and indestructible love for another man, a free man, who died drowned in suspicious circumstances in the Nile. Hadrian offers an explanation for that death and for Hadrian’s policies. It exposes his depthless pain and elevates the relationship between Hadrian and Antinous to the status of one of the most important love stories of all time.

For the occasion, the Theatre Royal and the Castell de Peralada Festival have brought together a cast headed by Thomas Hampson, Ainhoa Arteta, Xabier Anduaga, Rubén Amoretti and Vanessa Goikoetxea in the principal roles , who will be accompanied by the Chorus and Orchestra of the Theatre Royal with Scott Dunn on the podium. The company is completed by the voices of Alejandro del Cerro, Vicenç Esteve, Gregory Dahl, Pablo García-López, Josep-Ramón Olivé, David Lagares, Berna Perles and Albert Casals.

Tickets for the spectacle are on sale here