Yan Tan Tethera (opera)

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Yan Tan Tethera
A Mechanical Pastoral
Opera by Harrison Birtwistle
Harrison Birtwistle (cropped).jpg
The composer in 2008
Librettist Tony Harrison
Language English
Based on folk tale
Premiere 7 August 1986 (1986-08-07)
Queen Elizabeth Hall, London

Yan Tan Tethera is a chamber opera (subtitled A Mechanical Pastoral) by the English composer Harrison Birtwistle with a libretto by the poet Tony Harrison, based on a supernatural folk tale about two shepherds, their sheep, and the Devil. It was first performed at Queen Elizabeth Hall, London, on 7 August 1986. The title comes from a traditional way of counting sheep.


Role Voice type Premiere Cast, 7 August 1986
(Conductor: Elgar Howarth)
Alan baritone Omar Ebrahim
Hannah soprano Helen Charnock
Caleb Raven baritone Philip Doghan
Piper/Bad 'Un tenor Richard Suart



  • Adlington, Robert (2000): The Music of Harrison Birtwistle, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-52-102780-2
  • Beard, David (2012): Harrison Birtwistle's Operas and Music Theatre, Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-52-189534-0
  • Cross, Jonathan (2000): Harrison Birtwistle: Man, Mind Music, Faber. ISBN 0-57-119345-5
  • Hall, Michael (1984): Harrison Birtwistle, Robson. ISBN 1-86-105235-9