New Works 2017-03-09T18:29:49+00:00

Boston Lyric Opera is committed to the opera of tomorrow—and the Company is proud to do our part to give the composers and writers of today a stage to help those works find a voice

In recent Seasons, BLO has reaffirmed its commitment to new works and has built relationships with today’s leading composers and librettists, often in conjunction with the Company’s acclaimed Opera Annex series. “Commissioning new works and bringing them to Boston audiences first is one of my highest priorities for Boston Lyric Opera’s next decade,” says Stanford Calderwood General & Artistic Director Esther Nelson. New works like these push the boundaries of the operatic art form forward, challenge audiences to listen and experience opera anew, and provide opportunities for artists at every level, from singers to composers, writers to designers, from Boston and from around the world.

BLO New Opera Works press release – 1/13/17 (pdf 399KB)

Join us on the journey of creating an opera. Your tax-deductible gift supports more than the performance you’ll see on stage, but also the creation of a timeless work of art that has the power to unite communities.

By contributing to this great endeavor, you’ll be one of the first to receive new information and receive some amazing themed benefits in return:

  • Meet librettist, Julian Grant
  • Sit in with the design team
  • Attend a rehearsal
  • Attend an exclusive workshop
  • Attend a Final Dress Rehearsal
New Money for New Works on Crowdrise

The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare

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Timeline of BLO Commissions

BLO has a long history of commissioning new works, with steadily increasing robustness in the past five years.

1987: For its first commission, BLO ventured into the then-high tech world of opera: it produced Countdown, the first opera written entirely through computer assistance, after winning an OPERA America “Opera for the Eighties and Beyond” grant. Written during an intensive 12-day collaboration period, the score of Countdown was written using an Apple Macintosh computer, a Kurzweil 250 Digital Music Workstation, and software created by Christopher Yavelow.

1988: A second OPERA America “Eighties and Beyond” grant funded BLO’s development of Roger Ames and Laura Harrington’s work, The Wife of Martin Guerre. Portions of the work were presented at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, and the work went on to develop further and eventually premiered as a musical at the Hartford Stage in CT.

1992: BLO and Boston Music Theatre Project collaborated to present scenes from the partially-completed opera Elmer Gantry, by Robert Aldridge and Herschel Garfein. The work eventually premiered in full at Nashville Opera in 2007.

2011: Richard Beaudoin’s prologue, The After Image, was created in response to—and staged in conjunction with—Viktor Ullmann and Peter Kein’s The Emperor of Atlantis, or Death Quits.

2013: James MacMillan’s acclaimed work Clemency, co-commissioned along with The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, Scottish Opera, and Britten Sinfonia, premiered at BLO, and was later released commercially on CD through Naxos America.

2013: BLO’s Opera Annex presentation was its commission of the official reduced version of Jack Beeson’s 1965 opera, Lizzie Borden.

2016: BLO commissioned a new book of The Merry Widow from director, playwright, and actor Lillian Groag.

2017: BLO will present the world premiere of The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare by composer Julian Grant and librettist Mark Campbell.

2018: BLO will present the world premiere of Schoenberg in Hollywood by composer Tod Machover and librettist Simon Robson.


The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of

Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare

Commissioned by Music-Theatre Group with additional support from Boston Lyric Opera
By Julian Grant and Mark Campbell


In 19th-century Edinburgh, the public anatomy dissections of the renowned Dr. Robert Knox were popular and prosperous—but fresh bodies were scarce. The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare follows the gruesome, true tale of two ordinary men who discovered they could turn a pretty penny through murder, and of the good doctor who looked the other way. All told, Burke and Hare smothered more than a dozen victims, selling the bodies to Dr. Knox’s school, before they were caught and convicted in a trial that riveted the United Kingdom.

Julian Grant

Julian Grant

Composer Julian Grant says he was intrigued by the challenges of making Burke and Hare sing, and felt the story lent itself to being told with deathly humor—and a touch of vaudeville. “Five victims are central characters in our story,” Grant says. “They interact with the living, adding a level of pathos and sympathy to the all-pervading villainy.”

Mark Campbell

Mark Campbell

Librettist Mark Campbell says the themes of the opera resonate deeply today. “I was attracted to the real story of Burke and Hare because it occurs in a morally upended world—not unlike our own—where profit is pitted against science, and greed against good. Adding a good deal of mordant humor to a potentially grim tale helps engage the audience with the story.”

Campbell wrote the libretto for Silent Night (2012), which won the Pulitzer Prize that year for composer Kevin Puts, and recently completed Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of The Shining, based on Stephen King’s horror novel. Grant is the composer of more than 18 operas, including works for English National Opera, the Royal Opera and others.

Music-Theatre Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping artists turn creative inspiration into dramatically compelling music-theatre works. Since 1970, MTG has helped inspiration take flight by creating a collaborative community that enables artists to tap into their collective imaginations and generate original works that tell stories driven by music. MTG is a place where composers, poets, playwrights, choreographers, designers and directors synthesize their creative spirits to make truly groundbreaking productions. Internationally renowned for its commitment to the creation of work that embraces different art forms, MTG has produced a stunning roster of fully integrated music-theatre works -ranging from chamber-sized to full-scale operas and productions.

“The Nefarious Burke & Hare” — Interview with the Creators

Selections from the Boston Showcase, Feb 2017

OPERA America New Works Showcase, Jan 2017

In January 2017, selections from Burke & Hare were performed at the OPERA America New Opera Showcase, an evening of orchestral readings of new and recently premiered operas.

Boston Showcase and Q&A, Feb 2017

In February 2017, BLO performed selections from Burke & Hare at the Boston Center for the Arts with a cast of local artists. With commentary and discussion by conductor David Angus, composer Julian Grant and stage director David Schweizer, this showcase allowed a small group of BLO donors and supporters to get a sneak peek at the work-in-progress.

Schoenberg in Hollywood

An Opera by Tod Machover
Music by Tod Machover
Libretto by Simon Robson
Based on a Scenario by Braham Murray
Commissioned by Boston Lyric Opera

COMING in the 2018/19 SEASON

In the glamour and glitz of 1930s Los Angeles, the experimental Austrian composer Arnold Schoenberg arrived in Hollywood to escape Hitler’s rise. Amidst a world of sunshine and lightness, Schoenberg befriended celebrities, toyed with the lure of scoring Hollywood films—and pushed the boundaries of what music could be.

Tod Machover

Tod Machover

“Schoenberg is a towering figure in music, an uncompromising visionary who incorporated so many things into his work we are just beginning to understand its full impact,” Machover says. Currently in the early stages of composition, he envisions that the opera will explore the humor, heroism and pathos of Schoenberg’s struggle, “providing a glimpse of what may have happened if Schoenberg had reconciled all these opposites.”

Simon Robson

Simon Robson

Machover is recognized as one of the most significant, innovative composers of his generation, celebrated for his music and for inventing new technology for music. He has been Professor of Music and Media at the MIT Media Lab in Cambridge since it was founded in 1985, and is Director of the Lab’s Hyperinstruments and Opera of the Future groups.

Simon Robson is a respected British actor and playwright, who has written short stories and novels. His first play, The Ghost Train Tattoo premiered at the Royal Exchange and his book of short stories, The Separate Heart, was shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Prize in 2007.