Dystopia: Who Needs It?

Adrian Mourby shows that the nightmare scenario can be both dire warning and escapist fantasy.

By the time an idea reaches the world of opera it’s pretty safe to say it has permeated all levels of human consciousness. The Holocaust has only just appeared at the Royal Opera House in the form of ‘Sophie’s Choice’, which was first a novel, then a play and a film but only in 2003 did it turn up at Covent Garden. Similarly dystopia has only recently found its way into opera. Margaret Atwood’s grim futuristic novel The Handmaid’s Tale was published in 1985, filmed in 1990 and finally opened in a production by English National Opera this year.

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