The opera was first performed at Houston Grand Opera on 8 July 1988. The British premiere was 9 November 1988 by English National Opera at the London Coliseum. This production was broadcast live in the UK on Radio 3 on 13 December 1988. Due to a technical fault, scene four from Act III was not broadcast.
The people of Planet 8 are peaceful and content, until one of the Canopean Agents arrives and tells them to prepare for an impending ice age. The embattled population fights courageously in the face of certain death, and their efforts are transformed when they become the one single 'representative' of the planet's people and culture.