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King Priam

English Touring Opera presents a new production of Tippett's haunting pacifist opera, set during the fall of Troy.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of King Priam. It was last on stage 13–22 February 2014 as part of the Winter 2013/14 season.


King Priam's wife dreams their newborn son will cause his father's death. Torn between love for the child and his duty as a king, Priam reluctantly agrees to the boy's murder. His choice leads to a cataclysmic, bloody war.


Tippett's second opera is a powerful expression of the composer's deeply held pacifism. It was first performed at the 1962 Coventry Festival, commemorating the consecration of the new cathedral and remembering the tremendous global human loss of World War II.

From the bloody story of the Iliad Tippett constructs a harrowing meditation on the trauma of war, and how individual choices can trigger irrevocable horror. Tippett's distinctive musical language entwines breathtakingly beautiful sonorities with the driving pulse of war machines. ETO's original production is ample tribute to this landmark in British opera.

News and features

  • Operatic Pacifism

    30 January 2014

    In preparation for English Touring Opera's production of King Priam, we look at how pacifist ideals have influenced opera in the last century.

On Wikipedia

King Priam is an opera by Michael Tippett, to his own libretto. The story is based on Homer's Iliad, except the birth and childhood of Paris, which are taken from the Fabulae of Hyginus. The premiere was on 29 May 1962, at Coventry. The opera was composed for an arts festival held in conjunction with the reconsecration of the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral, for which Benjamin Britten also wrote his War Requiem, which was first performed in the Cathedral the day after the premiere of King Priam. The first Covent Garden performance was on 5 June, conducted by John Pritchard. It was premiered in Germany at the Badisches Staatstheater in 1963, in Greece at the 1985 Athens Festival, in France at the Opéra de Nancy et de Lorraine in 1988, in Italy at Batignano in 1990, and in the United States San Francisco Opera Center Showcase in 1994. In 2014 the work was revived by English Touring Opera, with a reduced orchestration by Iain Farrington, the first performance of this version being given at the Linbury Studio Theatre at the Royal Opera House on 13 February 2014. As epigraph to the score Tippett placed the German words "Es möge uns das Schicksal gönnen, dass wir das innere Ohr von dem Munde der Seele nicht abwenden," or, "May Fate grant that we never turn our inner ear away from our soul's lips." These words conclude a 1912 essay on the paintings of Arnold Schoenberg by Wassily Kandinsky.

Read the complete King Priam article on Wikipedia, available under a Creative Commons license.