barber institute of fine arts
university of birmingham

Nova Music Opera: Prometheus Drowned/Airborne

Saturday 1 November 7.30pm

Nova Music Opera

Stephen McNeff Prometheus Drowned
Cecilia McDowall Airborne

United by a common theme of misadventure, but distinct enough to engage and excite on many levels, this pair of new chamber operas make perfect performing partners.

Prometheus Drowned, Stephen McNeff’s reworking of an earlier commission from the Presteigne Festival, is a chilling exploration of the strange circumstances surrounding the death of Percy Bysshe Shelley in 1822 at Livorno in Tuscany. Richard Williams has reworked the libretto from contemporary sources, using journals, diaries and incorporates a number of Shelley’s own writings.

In Airborne, we move forward in history to World War I, where we meet Johnny, a pilot in the Royal Flying Corps, and Alice, a nurse in the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service Reserve. The opera reflects their parallel experiences on 1 July 1916, allowing them to interact and sing and dance together as their minds go back to the high spots of their deepening love affair; both anticipate and then witness the huge debacle that was the Battle of the Somme.

Prometheus Drowned
Stephen McNeff composer
Richard Williams librettist and director
George Vass conductor
Clare McCaldin Jane | Christopher Good Trelawney
Nova Music Ensemble

Cecilia McDowall composer
Andy Rashleigh librettist
Richard Williams director 
George Vass conductor
Donna Lennard Alice | Henry Manning Johnny
Nova Music Ensemble

Airborne is a joint-commission between Nova Music and the Presteigne Festival, supported by the RVW Trust and the Arts Council of Wales.

To hear and read more about these operas, visit


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