Opera Scotland

Last Supper The Last Supper

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Harrison Birtwistle (born Accrington, 15 July 1934)


Robin Blaser



First Performance: Berlin (Staatsoper), 18 April 2000.

First Performance in UK: Glyndebourne, 21 October 2000.

First Performance in Scotland: Glasgow (City Halls), 14 January 2017 (semi-staged).



The Last Supper was commissioned jointly by Glyndebourne, the Deutsche Staatsoper Berlin and the Royal Festival Hall.

It is described not as an opera or oratorio, but as 'Dramatic Tableaux for 14 soloists, small chorus and chamber orchestra'.  The chorus comments on the action in the manner of the chorus in Greek drama, but the twelve soloists representing the disciples also combine frequently in complex choral sequences.



Christ (baritone)

Judas (tenor)

Ghost (soprano)

Little James (counter-tenor)

James (counter-tenor)

Thomas (tenor)

Andrew (tenor)

Simon (tenor)

Bartholomew (tenor)

Philip (baritone)

John (baritone)

Matthew (bass-baritone)

Thaddeus (bass)

Peter (bass)



The Ghost informs us, the audience, that she is one of us, a present-day character, aware of the problems of the modern world, but who will connect us to the world of the past, when the events of the Last Supper occurred. Those events will now be re-enacted, as she invites Jesus and the disciples to re-assemble.

As each arrives he recalls his part in events, and they wonder at the purpose of the meeting. They assemble the table in preparation. When Judas turns up the others are shocked and all tell him to leave again as they regard him as a traitor. They continue to argue until interrupted by the arrival of Jesus.

A series of visions follows - the Crucifixion, the Stations of the Cross and finally the Betrayal.

When Christ washes the feet of each disciple in turn it is to wash away the accumulated dust of centuries, representing the many problems in the world that followed after their time. As they sit at the table they are joined by Judas. The bread and wine are taken as a sign of forgiveness.

The Cast

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