"The Life & Death of Alexander Litvinenko" was created and composed by former UK investment fund manager and composer Anthony Bolton, and features a libretto by Kit Hesketh-Harvey.
It will premiere on July 15 and 17, 2021 to two sold out audiences at Grange Park Opera house which was modelled after Milan’s La Scala.
After reading a biography on the Russian dissident, Bolton spent three years creating this opera. "When I put it down, I thought, gosh — this has to be an opera," he said in last year’s press launch of the work. "It has power, politics, betrayal, love, and jeopardy."
Set in Russia and Britain, the production involves a full chorus and a 52-piece orchestra, including flashbacks, flash-forwards, and historic film footage projected on screens. The opera is in two acts, each an hour long.
Litvinenko was a former agent with Russia's FSB security service. After revealing an apparent plot to kill Boris Berezovsky, a supporter-turned-foe of the Russian president, he fled in 1999. Exiled, he became a naturalized British citizen living in London.
In 2006, he was poisoned with radioactive polonium-210 placed in his tea, dying three weeks after the lethal dose. The incident caused political unrest in the West, leading UK authorities to expel Russian diplomats after prosecutors accused two Russian men of the murder.
The title role will be played by British-Australian tenor, Adrian Dwyer. Other cast members include English soprano Rebecca Bottone, playing Litvnenko’s wife. The music will be directed by English conductor Stephen Barlow.
"I felt full of emotion, and I believe others will feel the same," Litvnenko’s wife, Marino, said upon first hearing the opera being rehearsed. "It is a kind of justice."
"Casting this has been like casting nothing else," said Wasfi Kani, CEO of Grange Park Opera. "Tosca can look like anyone. But if you’re going to cast Alexander Litvinenko he needs to look like him — and be able to sing the part."