The Martyrdom of St Magnus

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The Martyrdom of St Magnus
Chamber opera by Peter Maxwell Davies
Peter Maxwell Davies.jpg
The composer in 2012
LibrettistPeter Maxwell Davies
Based onGeorge Mackay Brown's novel Magnus
18 June 1977 (1977-06-18)

The Martyrdom of St Magnus is a chamber opera in one act (with nine scenes) by the British composer Peter Maxwell Davies. The libretto, by Davies himself, is based on the novel Magnus by George Mackay Brown. The opera was first performed in St. Magnus Cathedral, Kirkwall, Orkney on 18 June 1977.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 18 June 1977
(Conductor: Peter Maxwell Davies)
Earl Magnus/Prisoner tenor Neil Mackie
Norse Herald/Litolf/Keeper of the Loom baritone Brian Rayner Cook
Welsh Herald/Tempter baritone Michael Rippon
Earl Hakon/Officer bass Jan Comboy
Blind Mary mezzo-soprano Mary Thomas


The opera tells the story of Magnus Erlendsson, Earl of Orkney, who became a Christian saint and martyr. The nine scenes are entitled: 1.The Battle of Menai Strait; 2.The Temptations of Magnus; 3.The Curse of Blind Mary; 4.The Peace Parley; 5.Magnus's Journey to the Isle of Egilsay; 6.Earl Hakon plots to murder Magnus; 7.The Reporters; 8.The Sacrifice; 9.The Miracle.


  • Amadeus Online
  • Holden, Amanda (Ed.), The New Penguin Opera Guide, New York: Penguin Putnam, 2001. ISBN 0-14-029312-4