News: Abomination – A DUP Opera to premiere in November

The Belfast Ensemble is back with an incendiary new opera from acclaimed composer Conor Mitchell to open Belfast’s Outburst Queer Arts Festival on 8 November 2019. Abomination, A DUP Opera sets the former DUP MP Iris Robinson’s infamous 2008 live BBC Radio Ulster interview (in which she condemns homosexuality as “an abomination”) to live orchestral music. The interview was given just days after a gay man was physically assaulted in Northern Ireland because of his sexuality.

In a major new co-production by The Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts, this fully staged, full length opera will open the 2019 Outburst Queer Arts Festival (now in its thirteenth year) on 8 November. Short excerpts of Abomination were first performed in concert form in 2018.

The show opens a week after the Brexit deadline on October 31 and just two weeks after the Westminster-approved date for same sex marriage to be introduced in Northern Ireland. Should that remain unchallenged by a Northern Ireland Assembly, which, to date, is still in hiatus after its collapse in January 2017, making this work even more timely.

Fusing opera performance with drag, cabaret and political satire, Abomination composer Conor Mitchell amplifies his fresh, bold vision for contemporary classical music to explore attitudes to LGBTQ people in Northern Ireland, cited as the most homophobic place in Western Europe. The piece’s libretto features historical and recent comments by DUP members on gay rights, trans lives, marriage equality, ‘poofs’ and ‘perverts’ alongside Iris Robinson’s words from her infamous BBC interview.

Featuring a chamber orchestra and a quartet of opera singers, the cast will also include Irish actor and drag queen Matthew Cavan and Canadian soprano Rebecca Caine who both performed in the concert performances in 2018.

Composer and Belfast Ensemble Director Conor Mitchell said: “Opera has a long tradition of tackling contemporary, charged subjects, no matter time in history. Verdi, Britten, Brecht and Weill, they all did that. This is what makes opera such a great medium: it can handle ‘the epic’ and the currents of social change. That’s what excites me. I think opera as a form is treading water right now and this work is my antidote to that! It’s a chance to bring that vital, relevant, dangerous edge back to what I feel opera has always been about. It’s a challenge to the establishment in both operatic and social terms and bringing that sensibility and energy to a 21st century audience. That is what my work is always about.”

Artistic Director of Outburst Arts Ruth McCarthy added: “A big part of Outburst’s mission is to support ambitious, risk-taking new work from the best artists working in Northern Ireland. We are delighted to work with Conor and The Belfast Ensemble on realising Outburst’s first major co-commission supported through our Paul Hamlyn Foundation Breakthrough Award. Not only is Abomination stunning, cutting edge work in artistic terms, it’s also a vital examination of the violent impact that words have on all those who are treated as less-than in terms of human rights and “other” in terms of full social inclusion.”

Abomination is a timely reminder that legislative change is not the only change needed. At a time when freedom of speech is under threat globally yet frequently invoked to legitimise hate speech, Abomination explores and examines the power of words, and challenges the audience to create a new narrative beyond the bluster and bruising of politicians and the media.

Abomination, A DUP Opera is produced by The Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts with the support of Paul Hamlyn Foundation, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and British Council.

The show opens at the Lyric Theatre Belfast on Friday 8th November at 7.30pm to launch the 13th annual Outburst Queer Arts Festival, with a preview performance on Thursday 7th and additional performances on Saturday 9th and Sunday 10th November.

Further details and tickets from

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