Music Theatre Wales & Royal Opera House
With London Sinfonietta
Music by Gerald Barry
Libretto by Vincent Deane

Dublin, 1753. A frustrated and impoverished opera composer’s work goes into a spin when he falls for his lead castrato – but then the castrato elopes with the composer’s rich fiancée, causing chaos and catastrophe all round.

Gerald Barry’s operas are like no other – daring, surreal, and often laugh-out-loud funny. The Intelligence Park exploded on to the stage in London in 1990, introducing a unique operatic voice to the world. Almost 30 years on, director/designer Nigel Lowery’s new, messed-up Baroque production rediscovers its zoo of emotions, characters and absurdities in a blurring of imagination and reality, as it explores notions of sexuality, ambition and obligation.


“This production will take Music Theatre Wales in a new direction, referencing the Baroque roots of the opera’s story set in 18th century Dublin and of Gerald Barry’s music (Handel somehow hovers over this music), but in an utterly contemporary and overtly theatrical way.

We’ve never done painted sets and Baroque-inspired costumes before, but this is exactly what The Intelligence Park cries out for and is the treatment it will receive, but don’t be deceived. This is NOT a Baroque opera! Here the Baroque will be exposed and messed-up, enabling us to see into the human drama that lies at the centre of this story, in which things go horribly wrong for an artist who is struggling to create and struggling to survive, yet lives under constant pressure to obey society’s rules, all of which run counter to his instincts.

He falls madly in love (or is it obsession) with the castrato who is officially teaching his fiancée to sing. But worse than that, the castrato and fiancée end up inhabiting the opera he is trying to write, and in real life end up eloping! This is only brought to an end when the fiancée’s father – a powerful and tradition-loving judge - cheats the castrato and his daughter into returning home only for the castrato to be thrown in to prison. “The prison of life” as Nigel Lowery puts it – the rules and regulations that surround us, the expectations placed on us and the limitations placed on our imaginations.

The Intelligence Park rails against all this and cries out for freedom of the imagination, a release from the confines of everyday life in every possible aspect – creativity, sexuality and morality. Barry’s music represents all this, inventing its own rules and defying convention, and it is all the stronger for doing so, but it demands some commitment from the listener too.

When asked to put pen to paper and introduce us to the world of The Intelligence Park, director-designer Nigel Lowery produced an extraordinary statement:

Poetry and music assault a labyrinthine dungeon, intelligence boils out of control…

Suppose a castrato elopes with the daughter of a bombastic judge! Suppose this hungry castrato enflames the lifeblood of a desperate composer! Thus reason becomes trapped within a park of fatal attractions.

And all the while time is in orbit, spinning its melancholic veil, a final curtain to end a performance of sorrow, denial, obsession and horror!

The opera references an historic solar eclipse which Dublin experienced in the 18th century as a portent of doom, but it also represents the upper class of Dublin society as Dummies only interested in playing cards and eating banquets! Lowery’s production will play with the idea of the prison and of crushed hopes, but will celebrate the power of the imagination and the artist, with deliberately painted sets that are not a representation of reality but are more like a Pollock toy theatre where the imagination can run riot.

With all of Gerald Barry’s work the one thing you can expect, is the unexpected.”

Michael McCarthy, Artistic Director, Music Theatre Wales

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  • Linbury Theatre, Royal Opera House, London

    Wednesday 25 September - Friday 4 October

  • Sherman Theatre, Cardiff

    Tuesday 8 October

  • RNCM, Manchester

    Saturday 12 October

  • Birmingham Repertory Theatre

    Monday 4 November