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Henze’s astonishing final opera is a rhapsodic re-imagining of a classical tragedy. This production is brought to life by The Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artists.

Most recent performance

There are currently no scheduled performances of Phaedra. It was last on stage 15–20 May 2019 as part of the Spring 2018/19 season.

The Story

Phaedra’s desire for her step-son Hippolytus (Hippolyt) fills her with self-loathing and so she attempts suicide. Aphrodite stops her, though she is jealous of Hippolyt’s love for Artemis.

Phaedra confesses her feelings to Hippolyt but he pushes her away. She swears vengeance, and writes to Theseus, falsely accusing Hippolyt of rape. Theseus asks for Poseidon’s help to kill Hippolyt and Poseidon does so through a chariot accident. Phaedra hangs herself.

Artemis brings Hippolyt back to life, locks him in a cage and gives him a new name, Virbius. Phaedra's spirit mocks him. Aphrodite attempts to take him to the underworld, but Artemis catches him and throws him into a cave. Phaedra's spirit attempts to lure him to the underworld, but instead he rushes from the cave, and is resurrected as King of the Woods.


Phaedra was given its premiere in 2007. Hans Werner Henze’s final opera is full of originality, challenging our expectations of what opera can and should be. Re-imagining the classical story of Phaedra and Hippolytus (Hippolyt), the opera places Hippolyt at the centre of the story. It has been described as an ‘astonishing achievement’ brimming with ‘otherworldly beauty’, a ‘rich, beguiling and significant work’.

This production, directed by Noa Naamat, is brought to life by The Royal Opera's Jette Parker Young Artists, with Edmund Whitehead conducting Southbank Sinfonia in a score that brims with emotion and brilliance.