Griffith alumnus premieres Hamlet opera at The Met

Composer Brett Dean

Internationally renowned composer, alumnus and Honorary Doctor of Griffith University, Brett Dean, is helming a modern production of Hamlet at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. 

Hamlet premiered on May 13 and will run until June 9 following its world premiere at the Glyndebourne Festival in the UK in 2017.  

Described by the New York Times as ‘brooding, moving and riveting’, the adaptation of Shakespeare’s most famous work has also been called a contemporary masterpiece, with Brett using the Bard’s classic tale of death, revenge, and tragedy to compose a powerful piece of music.     

Brett said composing the music to Hamlet was a very different experience than his normal process.   

“The use of text always provides a vastly different starting point for a composition than a piece of abstract instrumental music for example,” he said.  

“It gives you a framework and an emotional or dramaturgical trajectory such that one isn’t confronted by the notorious blank sheet of manuscript paper.  

“However, with Shakespeare in general, and this specific play in particular, it comes with a certain burden of expectation.”  

A proud Queensland Conservatorium alumnus studying a Bachelor of Music,  Brett said the chance to perform at the Met was a long-held dream. 

“It is of course a huge and rare honour to have my work presented at the Met so it feels pretty damn good, to be honest!”   

Performers of Hamlet Source: The Metropolitan Opera


“My studies at the Conservatorium were part of a hugely formative time for me.  

“Three things stand out: the guidance and support given throughout by my viola teacher, the legendary John Curro; the immersion in chamber music, specifically the learning curve I experienced as a member of a wonderful student group formed with friends, the Ambrosian String Quartet; and finally, the classes of Alan Lane which provided me with many more compositional tools and insights than I realised at the time.”  

Pro Vice Chancellor of the Arts, Education and Law Group, Professor Scott Harrison, said it was always a delight to see Griffith University alumni achieving such success on the world stage.  

“If you were to ask musicians, composers and singers which theatres around the world they would want to perform in, there wouldn’t be many that didn’t have The Met at the top of the list,” Professor Harrison said.  

“It is wonderful to see the success that Brett has had, and we are all extremely proud that the education and training he received at Griffith University that has led him to share his expertise with the world.

Pro Vice Chancellor Professor Scott Harrison  

“I saw the piece at the Adelaide Festival and I can say from personal experience, it is a very powerful piece that adds an extra dimension to the Hamlet tale.”  

The production will also screen in select global cinemas in September.  

You can find information about showings online.