Richard Dawkins makes operatic debut

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23 May 2014

The voice of one of the country’s best known atheists is to be part of an opera based on a controversial unfinished novel by Mark Twain on 24 May.

Professor Dawkins- permission Lalla Dawkins

The opera, written by University of Manchester lecturer in composition Dr Kevin Malone, is based on the celebrated American author’s final novel, written between 1897 and 1908 and never completed.

Dr Malone wrote the narrative, libretto and music for ‘Mysterious 44’, which lasts 90 minutes and will be premiered to celebrate the launch of Manchester Opera Project - an organisation devoted to the development of new opera - at the Hallé orchestra's new home, St Peter's in Ancoats.

The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science has awarded a grant to film the show for dissemination to schools and to be made available on YouTube.

A repeat performance of the Arts Council England funded work will be at the Derbyshire Open Arts Festival at Providence Church, New Mills on 25 May.

Dr Malone said: “Although it is not meant as an antireligious opera, it does argue for an approach to understanding the world which is based on science and reason, over superstition.

“That is why I’m so delighted that Richard Dawkins, one of the country’s most influential atheists, is taking part.

“It’s a story of religious murder, deception, corruption, superstition, genocide, and a mysterious stranger who leads a lad away from it all to start a life of secular compassion.”

Four live singers, a singing computer, video animation, and a surround-sound electronic score will entertain the audience.

There are eight characters played by four singers and Richard Dawkins, who voices the alter-protagonist, August, a renaissance man coming out of the dark ages.

Inspired by the writings of Darwin, Twain’s story is set in 1490, a few decades after the invention of Gutenberg's press and the start of the Renaissance.

Three boys are approached by a mysterious stranger who calls himself "44" after a wrongly-accused woman is stoned to death.

Like the monolith in “2001: A Space Odyssey”, the stranger sparks self-realisation, and one boy steps forward to question superstition and religion.

Dr Malone added: “I became an atheist because the Bible is open to interpretation and can therefore be abused.

“Science is more exact and objective so when science is proven wrong, it is easily swept away and replaced with something better – unlike the Bible.”

Richard Dawkins is a vice president of the British Humanist Association.  He currently features in a new film “The Unbelievers”, which follows him and Lawrence Krauss across the globe as they speak publicly about the importance of science and reason in the modern world.

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