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Tarik O'Regan

Publisher: Novello & Co

Heart of Darkness (2011)
Text Writer
Libretto (English) by Tom Phillips after the novella by Joseph Conrad
Novello & Co Ltd
Opera and Music Theatre
Year Composed
1 Hour 15 Minutes
2 Baritones, Bass, Contralto, Soprano, 3 Tenors
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Programme Note
Tarik O'Regan Heart of Darkness (2011)

~ MARLOW (tenor): an old seafarer who tells of his early employ as the captain of a steamboat on an expedition to Central Africa
~ THE THAMES CAPTAIN (baritone): a captain of a ship moored in the Thames Estuary, and witness to Marlow’s tale
~ THE COMPANY SECRETARY (tenor): based at the Company’s headquarters in Europe
~ THE DOCTOR (baritone): also based at the Company’s headquarters
~ THE ACCOUNTANT (tenor): the Company’s chief accountant, based at an outer trading station
~ THE MANAGER (tenor): a Company manager, in charge of Marlow’s expedition
~ THE BOILERMAKER (baritone): based at the central trading station
~ THE HELMSMAN (tenor): on Marlow’s steamboat
~ KURTZ (bass): an ivory trader
~ THE HARLEQUIN (tenor): in Kurtz’s entourage
~ THE RIVER WOMAN (soprano): also in Kurtz’s entourage
~ THE FIANCÉE (soprano): Kurtz’s fiancée in Europe


Marlow, a sea captain, tells the tale of his journey up-river in the equatorial forest to find Kurtz, the once idealistic ivory trader who is rumoured to have developed his remote station into a barbaric fiefdom. This god-like warlord is however, when discovered, a dying husk. Marlow is witness to his end, which he is committed to give an account of to Kurtz’s fiancée on his return. He cannot tell her the truth.

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  • 01 MAY 2015
    Heart of Darkness Country Premiere
    San Francisco, CA
    Opera Parallèle
    Nicole Paiement, conductor

    Other Dates:
    2,3 May - San Francisco, CA
  • 02 NOV 2011
    Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London
    Britten Sinfonia and Opera East
    Oliver Gooch, conductor

    Other Dates:
    4,5 November - Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London
  • 01 NOV 2011
    Heart of Darkness World Premiere
    Linbury Studio Theatre, Royal Opera House, London
    Britten Sinfonia and Opera East
    Oliver Gooch, conductor
  • 27 MAY 2010
    Brooklyn, NY
    Beth Morrison Projects/American Opera Projects

The British composer, often compared to Benjamin Britten, employs a beguiling neo-tonal palette, and this score offered plenty of evidence of his skill at writing for orchestra. O'Regan's inventive score employs unusual instrument groups -- a mystical song for Kurtz set to harp and low strings; a chugging number for an African River Woman driven by woodwinds and percussion.
Georgina Rowe, San Jose Mercury News,05/02/2015
His gift for orchestration gave us beautifully sculptured, ephemeral imagery... And as the mist spread over the Thames boat from the wings and real water lapped on stage, in fact you could have heard a pin drop in the audience, whose attention as well held.
Jill Barlow, Tempo,01/05/2012
Tarik O’Regan’s Heart of Darkness has had its premiere in four Linbury performances…The libretto was compiled by Tom Phillips from phrases on Conrad’s novella and his Congo Diary…Heart of Darkness was a careful, thoughtful attempt at serious opera-making, interesting in its ambition…O’Regan’s exotic instrumental timbres, his evocations of the mysterious, awe-inspiring country, with small forces tellingly deployed, proved…arresting.
Andrew Porter, Opera,01/01/2012
Heart of Darkness managed what a lot of contemporary opera does not care about, emotion. The woven textures of the score and the beautiful singing by the dedicated cast was a joy to listen to, but more importantly an emotional experience, like the best of opera it touched the audience.
Opera Creep,08/11/2011
The brilliance of O'Regan and Phillips' new chamber opera lies in its ability to convey all that horror without the compulsion to show it - the ultimate psychodrama - and to employ music of startling beauty to tell such a brutal tale. 75-minutes of intense, sinister storytelling, combining crystal-clear narrative with complex ideas about idealism and self-delusion. ...A score of concise originality. Restless, leaping woodwind propel the narrative through the murky waters of the Congo, while interesting combinations of sonorities trickle and bubble through the music.
Stephen Pritchard, The Observer,06/11/2011
Tarik O'Regan's Conrad adaptation is an audacious, handsome debut [...] The craftsmanship of this first opera is indubitable, the horror muted by curatorial delicacy.
The Independent on Sunday,06/11/2011
...this is a terrific new work, intelligently staged and magnificently performed [...] Taken as a whole, Heart of Darkness has more going for it that many new operas, and I left the auditorium longing to hear it again – preferably immediately, certainly soon. The tour mooted for 2012 cannot happen quickly enough.
Classical Source,05/11/2011
Heart of Darkness is very good. If you think of opera as an often bloated, over-wrought art form with hammy plots and acting, you would do well to try this one. It is elegant, moving, and, at just 75 minutes, short enough to allow time for dinner afterward.
Wall Street Journal,04/11/2011
This is a thrilling new work, in a brilliantly realised production. I hope I get the opportunity to see it again soon [...] The handling of form and pace is superb. Marlow's journey is swift but the composer allows for moments of repose and reflection, effortlessly and almost imperceptibly altering tempo and metre, register and colour.
Opera Today,04/11/2011
...a well-crafted, well-executed work, which, whatever the future may hold, permits of not only a satisfying but at times moving evening in the theatre. O'Regan and librettist, Tom Phillips, have distilled Conrad's novella, aiming to present, and to my mind succeeding in doing so, a psychodrama: Marlow's exorcism of the trauma of his visit to Africa as a young man. Variation in musical style is associated with, but perhaps confounds our initial expectations of, time and location. Stravinsky-like in the inhuman rhythms of modern imperialism, more flexible, indeed close to Britten, in the freer, recitative passages. How refreshing it was to experience a work and production that spoke of true collaboration. Read the full article here.
Mark Berry, Seen & Heard International,03/11/2011
The opera demonstrates O'Regan's technical skill. The orchestral writing, scored for a 14-piece ensemble, shows a definite gift for atmosphere.
George Hall, The Guardian,03/11/2011
For my money, O'Regan is one of the great hopes for British music in the 21st century. I've followed his career since he was a student. I've been engaged, excited and entranced by his development through a succession of stunningly attractive choral works. And this piece is his biggest undertaking to date - its obviously a landmark. It turned out to be a viable score that holds attention, sustains pace, and draws your ear into a magical and haunting sound-world, frequently sustained by a symphonic kind of writing for the voices - all of which places it head and shoulders among the vast majority of new music-theatre pieces that come along these days.
Michael White, The Telegraph,02/11/2011
Wow! This was a remarkable achievement by 33 year old composer Tarik O'Regan, along with a libretto by artist Tom Phillips. They have packed Joseph Conrad's novella into 75 minutes of gripping musical narrative [...] nothing is hurried, everything is accomplished.
Mark Ronan's Theatre Reviews,01/11/2011
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