New Year (opera)

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New Year
Opera by Michael Tippett
27 October 1989 (1989-10-27)

New Year is an opera in three acts by composer Michael Tippett, who wrote his own libretto. It was first performed by Houston Grand Opera on 27 October 1989, in a production by Peter Hall.[1]

Tippett has noted that the "primary metaphor" of the opera is dance.[2] The choreographer of the original production was the noted American dancer Bill T. Jones.

Performance history[edit]

The first UK production was at Glyndebourne, and subsequently Glyndebourne Touring Opera presented an adapted version of Peter Hall's production.[3][4] As with Tippett's other operas, the text and music encompass a widely eclectic range of cultural references.[2][5]


Role Voice type Premiere cast, 27 October 1989
(Conductor: John DeMain)
Jo Ann, a trainee children's doctor lyric soprano Helen Field
Donny, her young brother light baritone Krister St. Hill
Nan, their foster mother dramatic mezzo-soprano Jane Shaulis
Merlin, the computer wizard dramatic baritone James Maddalena
Pelegrin, the space pilot lyric tenor Peter Kazaras
Regan, their boss dramatic soprano Richetta Manager
The presenter microphoned male singer John Schiappa


The story of the opera moves between two worlds, of "Somewhere and Today" and "Nowhere and Tomorrow".

Act 1[edit]

Jo Ann is a child psychologist who wants to work with young victims of the urban conflict going on in "Terror Town" outside of her domicile. However, she is so afraid of Terror Town that she does not venture out of the apartment. Her Rastafarian foster brother Donny is generally delinquent in his behaviour towards her and their mutual foster mother, Nan. Out of nowhere, a spaceship emerges, carrying Merlin, a "computer wizard", and the pilot Pelegrin, under the leadership of Regan. These are time travelers from the future, and the ship makes a connection with Jo Ann's apartment.

Act 2[edit]

It is centered at a New Year's festivity. A shaman, in a trance, induces the crowd of revellers to pummel Donny as part of the celebration. The space ship arrives and Merlin asserts his authority over the activities. Jo Ann and Pelegrin do meet, but they are separated when the spaceship leaves the scene. Jo Ann saves Donny from the beating crowd, and the act ends to the sounds of the traditional song "Auld Lang Syne".

Act 3[edit]

Pelegrin presents Jo Ann with a symbolic rose, as a symbol of their love. She loses the rose, but he recovers it. Jo Ann is finally cured of her fears and can go out again into the world outside of her home. The Presenter summarizes the final message as: "One humanity, one justice".


  1. ^ "Time Traveling and Agoraphobia in Tippett Opera" by Donal Henahan, The New York Times, 30 October 1989
  2. ^ a b Lewis, Geraint New Year in the New World (November 1989). The Musical Times, 130 (1761): pp. 665–669.
  3. ^ Lewis, Geraint, "New Year Is Here" (July 1990). The Musical Times, 131 (1769): pp. 355–357.
  4. ^ David Allenby, "First Performances: Tippett's New Year. Tempo (New Ser.), 175, 35–36 (1990).
  5. ^ David Clarke, Review of piano score of "New Year: An Opera in Three Acts". Music & Letters, 71(3), 468–472 (1990).

External links[edit]