Most recent performance
There are currently no scheduled performances of The Importance of Being Earnest. It was last on stage 29 March—3 April 2016 as part of the Winter 2015/16 season.
Ernest loves Gwendolen, but hasn’t told her that his name is really Jack and he has a ward named Cecily who lives in the country. His friend Algernon presents himself to Cecily as Jack’s brother Ernest and they fall in love. Both Cecily and Gwendolen state that they particularly admire the name Ernest, to the anguish of Jack and Algernon. Gwendolen’s mother and Algernon’s aunt Lady Bracknell strongly disapproves. A lot of cucumber sandwiches are eaten.
Through a revelation provided by Cecily’s schoolmistress Miss Prism it is discovered that Jack is the long-lost brother of Algernon and that his name is in fact Ernest. There follows much rejoicing.
Irish composer Gerald Barry’s wildly inventive and idiosyncratic setting of Wilde’s classic play The Importance of Being Earnest has been an extraordinary success. Since its 2011 concert premiere in Los Angeles and its 2013 stage premiere in Nancy, it has enchanted audiences with its high-energy madcap humour, and in 2013 it won the Royal Philharmonic Society Award for best large-scale composition. Ramin Gray’s fabulously ridiculous production for the Royal Opera House marked the work’s UK stage premiere.
Barry’s hyperactive score runs helter-skelter through numerous musical languages – everything from serialist pastiche to galumphing concerto grosso gets a look in, riveted through with increasingly giddy variations on ‘Auld Lang Syne’. From the basso profundo Lady Bracknell’s spluttered Beethovenian Schiller to Gwendolen and Cecily’s Sprechstimme battle of spite through megaphones to the accompaniment of 40 solemnly smashed plates, The Importance of Being Earnest is insanely virtuoso, brilliantly hilarious and packed with invention.
News and features
31 March 2016
Four singers from The Royal Opera’s revival of Gerald Barry’s acclaimed operatic adaptation of Wilde’s classic play discuss food, convention and keeping a straight face.
30 March 2016
Irish composer Gerald Barry defies common sense at every turn in his operatic adaptation of Wilde’s classic play, to surprisingly ingenious effect.
21 March 2016
Gerald Barry warps Oscar Wilde’s celebrated absurdist comedy into something even stranger in his brilliant operatic adaptation.
15 March 2016
Ramin Gray's Royal Opera production of Oscar Wilde's iconic play was live-streamed via the Royal Opera House YouTube channel.
4 March 2016
Our quick introduction to Gerald Barry’s bonkers and brilliant adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s much-loved comedy.
15 June 2013
Audience comments about the UK stage premiere of Gerald Barry's operatic Oscar Wilde adaptation.