Theater Chemnitz (Dieter Wuschanski)

Theater Chemnitz (Dieter Wuschanski)

“Dove applies instrumental colour in a particularly effective and folkloric way, with Nordic horn calls, hunter’s drumming and sinister double bass signifying death, with harp and accordion adding their exotic tone.”Lynne Walker | The Independent


“Yvonne Howard’s life-affirming lament may be the most ravishing piece of sustained lyric writing Dove has produced.”Alfred Hickling | The Guardian


An Opera in One Act

Libretto by Alasdair Middleton

Commissioned by Opera North

World Premiere: Opera North, Assembly Room, Grand Theatre, Leeds, 13 November 2009

Commissioned by Opera North following the success of The Adventures of Pinocchio this chamber opera is written for a young audience but appeals to all ages. Inspired by the ancient Finnish folk-epic, the Kalevala, the tale is one of adventure and tasks of mythological magnitude not to speak of the rather grisly dismemberment of the hero.

Accompanied by a folk-inspired band, 6 singers play 10 characters and chorus. The opera celebrates the power of song, in the magic spells sung by the hero, Lemminkäinen; in the stratospheric writing for the Swan; and, most of all, in the finale, as the Mother sings her son back to life.


Lemminkäinen leaves his Mother to go north in search of a wife. He meets the witch Louhi, who tells him she has a girl who can make the sun sigh and the moon ache. To win this girl, Lemminkaïnen must hunt down the Devil’s Elk, ride the Devil’s Horse, and shoot the Swan on Death’s River. Before he can accomplish this final task, our hero is himself slain, dismembered and flung into the river. The Mother comes looking for her son, and magically sings him back to life.

Production History

Opera North, UK, November to December 2009

Theater Chemnitz, Germany, December 2011 to January 2012, February to April 2013 (sung in German)

Opera North UK, Linbury Studio Theatre, ROH April 2015 and touring

Duration, Technical Information and Resources

Swanhunter (2009)

Opera in One Act | 65 minutes

Libretto by Alasdair Middleton

S.2Mez.2T.B Soli



First performed 13 November 2009, Howard Assembly Room, Leeds, Opera North, Stuart Stratford

EP 71962


Swan/Chorus Soprano
Mother Mezzo-soprano
Louhi/Chorus Mezzo-soprano
Dog/Soppy‑hat/Death’s son/Chorus Tenor
Lemminkainen Tenor
Dog/Death/Smith/Chorus Bass


Theater Chemnitz (Dieter Wuschanski)

Theater Chemnitz (Dieter Wuschanski)

Opera North (Tristram Kenton)

Opera North (Tristram Kenton)


[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ1iSccc_F0]
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=smwwAn-uuyA]
[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=prBl5cxKZrw]


For further information


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