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09 Aug 2024

Joan Sutherland Theatre, Sydney Opera House
Bennelong Point, Sydney


Performed in English with surtitles.

Running time

Approximately 3 hours and 25 minutes, including one interval.

Please note

This production contains depictions of violence.

Music by Brett Dean
Libretto by Matthew Jocelyn after William Shakespeare
With thanks to the Banff Centre for the Arts Leighton Residency program, Canada

What a piece of work is a man! How noble in reason! How infinite in faculty! And yet, to me, what is this quintessence of dust?

Shakespeare’s searing portrait of a prince in crisis intimidated nearly all of history’s greatest opera composers. Not so for Australian composer Brett Dean, who saw in Hamlet’s splintering sanity a perfect match for his evocative music.

Now is your chance to see one of the most successful operas ever composed by an Australian. Commissioned and premiered by Glyndebourne, and performed at the Metropolitan Opera of New York and the Adelaide Festival to great acclaim, Hamlet finally gets its Sydney Opera House debut.

Dean composed an expansive sound world, with a massive orchestra and chorus, at times positioned around the theatre. The effect is dramatic and luxurious, a wall of voices pressing in on Hamlet’s troubled mind. Electronics create musical ghosts. Librettist Matthew Jocelyn carves up the text so the familiar pops up in unexpected places.

One of Australia’s great Shakespearean directors, Neil Armfield created this “viscerally physical” (Sydney Morning Herald) production for Glyndebourne, collaborating with Australian designers Ralph Myers and Alice Babidge to produce a slick royal court with darkness at its heart.

The demanding title role needs an extraordinary performer: we’re excited to bring Allan Clayton to make his Sydney Opera House debut. His performance as Hamlet is “tremendous” (The Guardian), “mesmerising and monumental” (The Conversation). Lorina Gore reprises her “spellbinding” Helpmann Award-winning performance as Ophelia alongside an outstanding cast. Contemporary opera specialist Tim Anderson conducts.

Cast & Creative

Music by
Libretto by
Matthew Jocelyn after William Shakespeare
Set Designer
Ralph Myers
Costume Designer
Lighting Designer
Sound Designer
Bob Scott
Lighting Realised by
Peter Harrison
Fight Director
Nicholas Hall
Movement Director
Denni Sayers
Assistant Director
Eugene Lynch
Ghost of Old Hamlet/Gravedigger/Player 1
Marcellus/Player 4
Player 2
Player 3

Opera Australia Orchestra
Opera Australia Chorus

Cheat Sheet: Hamlet

A cheat's guide to Brett Dean’s take on Shakespeare’s greatest play.

What happens in the story? Who was the composer? What should I expect from the music? Here’s everything you need to know…

Read the cheat sheet
Allan Clayton in Hamlet

Playing Hamlet

British tenor Allan Clayton has won rave reviews for his portrayal of the Danish Prince. Now he brings that performance to Sydney. Find out more about the tenor and his journey of playing Hamlet.

Find out more

To be, or not to be...

How do you turn one of the greatest plays ever written into an opera? Read our interview with librettist Matthew Jocelyn on adapting the text.

Find out more

Overture Dining at the Sydney Opera House

Enjoy dinner before the opera

Overture Dining at Sydney Opera House

Allow us to make your dinner reservation for you: at Overture Dining in the Northern Foyer of the Joan Sutherland Theatre. You’ll be served a three-course menu for just $97.

See the menu



Elsinore, Denmark. King Hamlet has died, mourned by his son, Prince Hamlet of Denmark. The king’s funeral is followed fast by the marriage of his widow, Gertrude, to his brother, Claudius. Hamlet is deeply disturbed by his father’s untimely death and his mother’s “o’er hasty marriage,” a state aggravated by the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost, informing Hamlet that he was in fact murdered by his brother, now husband to Gertrude and King of Denmark. The dead king asks that his son avenge his death by killing Claudius.

Unsure what to do and behaving erratically, Hamlet rejects his soul mate and lover, Ophelia, and dismisses his former classmates, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, whom Claudius has summoned to Elsinore to help discover the cause of Hamlet’s apparent madness.

A group of players arrives in Elsinore. Hamlet asks them to perform a scene mimicking the murder of King Hamlet by his brother. Claudius reacts violently to the performance, proof in Hamlet’s eyes of his stepfather’s guilt. Called to his mother’s chamber to explain his actions, Hamlet comes upon Claudius deep in prayer, yet finds himself unable to kill him.

Once with his mother, Hamlet hears a muffled cry and, thinking that Claudius is spying on him, runs his sword through a tapestry, killing the unsuspecting Polonius, Ophelia’s father. Hamlet then berates his mother for her shamelessness and debauchery. His father’s ghost appears, reminding Hamlet of his primary mission to avenge his death.


Laertes, Polonius’s son, returns to Elsinore to avenge his father’s death, threatening Claudius and his kingship. Claudius manages to allay Laertes’s violence by convincing him that Hamlet is the guilty one: Together, Claudius and Laertes conspire to kill him.

Ophelia appears, apparently driven mad by Hamlet’s rejection and the death of her father. This only serves to harden Laertes’s resolve for vengeance, as does, moments later, Ophelia’s death—she has drowned in a nearby stream.

Hamlet and his friend Horatio happen upon Ophelia’s funeral, and upon learning of her death, Hamlet provokes Laertes.

Through the intermediaries Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and according to the plan concocted with Claudius, Laertes challenges Hamlet to a duel. Hamlet accepts the challenge.

Many deaths ensue.

Synopsis by Matthew Jocelyn, reproduced with the permission of Glyndebourne Productions Ltd.

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