Richard Dawkins lends voice to atheist opera

Published 22 May 2014  |  

Richard Dawkins is making his operatic debut in a new 90-minute work by University of Manchester lecturer Dr Kevin Malone.

'Mysterious 44' is based on The Mysterious Stranger, the unfinished final novel by Huckleberry Finn writer Mark Twain.

The Mysterious Stranger follows the meeting of three boys with Satan, an encounter that leads them to question superstition and religion.

Dr Malone wrote the narrative, libretto and music for Mysterious 44, which will be premiered to celebrate the launch of Manchester Opera Project at the Hallé orchestra's new home, St Peter's in Ancoats.

 "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," said Dr Malone.

"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 will be accompanied by video animation, a surround-sound electronic score and singing computer. Dawkins will voice the alter-protagonist, August.

The opera has received funding from the Arts Council England and the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. Money from the latter will be used to film the show and distribute it more widely in schools and on YouTube.

Dr Malone said he was "delighted" Dawkins had agreed to take part.

"I became an atheist because the Bible is open to interpretation and can therefore be abused," said Dr Malone.

"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."

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