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Mary Paterson - MR. BURKE & MR. HARE

  • The Cyclorama at the Boston Center for the Arts (map)

The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of

Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare

Commissioned by Music-Theatre Group with additional support from Boston Lyric Opera
By Julian Grant and Mark Campbell


Conductor David Angus
Stage Director David Schweizer
Set Designer Caleb Wertenbaker
Costume Designer Nancy Leary
Lighting Designer Robert Wierzel
Movement Director Melinda Sullivan

WED | NOV 8| 7:30PM
THU | NOV 9 | 7:30PM
GALA | FRI | NOV 10 | 7:00PM*
SUN | NOV 12 | 12:00PM
SUN | NOV 12| 4:00PM


In 19th-century Edinburgh, the public anatomy dissections of the renowned Dr. Robert Knox were popular and prosperous—but fresh bodies were scarce. The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare follows the gruesome, true tale of two ordinary men who discovered they could turn a pretty penny through murder, and of the good doctor who looked the other way. All told, Burke and Hare smothered more than a dozen victims, selling the bodies to Dr. Knox’s school, before they were caught and convicted in a trial that riveted the United Kingdom.


Julian Grant

Composer Julian Grant says he was intrigued by the challenges of making Burke and Hare sing, and felt the story lent itself to being told with deathly humor—and a touch of vaudeville. “Five victims are central characters in our story,” Grant says. “They interact with the living, adding a level of pathos and sympathy to the all-pervading villainy.”


Mark Campbell

Librettist Mark Campbell says the themes of the opera resonate deeply today. “I was attracted to the real story of Burke and Hare because it occurs in a morally upended world—not unlike our own—where profit is pitted against science, and greed against good. Adding a good deal of mordant humor to a potentially grim tale helps engage the audience with the story.”

Campbell wrote the libretto for Silent Night (2012), which won the Pulitzer Prize that year for composer Kevin Puts, and recently completed Minnesota Opera’s world premiere of The Shining, based on Stephen King’s horror novel. Grant is the composer of more than 18 operas, including works for English National Opera, the Royal Opera and others.

Music-Theatre Group is a non-profit organization dedicated to helping artists turn creative inspiration into dramatically compelling music-theatre works. Since 1970, MTG has helped inspiration take flight by creating a collaborative community that enables artists to tap into their collective imaginations and generate original works that tell stories driven by music. MTG is a place where composers, poets, playwrights, choreographers, designers and directors synthesize their creative spirits to make truly groundbreaking productions. Internationally renowned for its commitment to the creation of work that embraces different art forms, MTG has produced a stunning roster of fully integrated music-theatre works -ranging from chamber-sized to full-scale operas and productions.

Earlier Event: August 18
Later Event: August 28
Ensemble Alto - CANDIDE