Artists · Conductors · Michael Rafferty · conductor
Michael Rafferty was born in Carlisle, Cumbria and read music and physics at The University of Lancaster, studying violin with Galina Solodchin and Nicholas Roth. During his period of postgraduate study in Cardiff, he developed an interest in the theatre and made his notable conducting debut with Peter Maxwell Davies’ opera The Lighthouse. Michael co-founded Music Theatre Wales, where he was Joint Artistic Director for more than twenty-five years, developing the organisation to its position as the UK’s foremost contemporary opera company, conducting every production. At the same time, he was a violinist with several new music ensembles.
Notable productions for Music Theatre Wales included the European Premiere of Philip Glass' The Fall of the House of Usher, Peter Maxwell Davies’ The Martyrdom of St Magnus, the BBCTV production of Maxwell Davies’ The Lighthouse, Harrison Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy, Lynne Plowman’s Gwyneth and the Green Knight and House of the Gods, Michael Berkeley’s Jane Eyre and For You, Philip Glass’ In the Penal Colony, Mark Anthony Turnage’s Greek and Salvatorre Sciarrino’s The Killing Flower. Greek won the TMA Theatre Award for 'Outstanding Achievement in Opera' in the UK in 2011. MTW’s Huw Watkins/Stuart MacRae Opera Double Bill was nominated for an Olivier Award in 2013 and MacRae’s Ghost Patrol won the South Bank Sky Award for Opera in 2013. Michael toured widely, both nationally and internationally with MTW, notably to the Tongyeong International Music Festival in Korea in 2015.
Michael’s engagements with other orchestras and ensembles include Britten’s Church Parables for Opéra National du Rhin, the Canadian premiere of Birtwistle’s Punch and Judy, John Hardy’s orchestral score to the film The Life Story of David Lloyd George, Veryan Weston’s Songs from a Prison Diary (Le Mans Jazz Festival) as well as performances with the BBC Concert Orchestra, Scottish Chamber Orchestra, London Mozart Players, Orchestre Symphonique de Mulhouse, Scottish Opera, Norway’s BIT 20 Ensemble, Musikfabrik of Cologne, The Composers’ Ensemble and PM Music Ensemble. For 10 years, he was conductor of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama contemporary music group, the Millennium Ensemble. In total Michael Rafferty has conducted the works of over 90 living composers and more than 50 opera productions. Many of his performances have been broadcast on radio and TV and he has made several CDs - most recently, Philip Glass’ The Trial, soon to be released on Orange Mountain Music. In 2016 he conducted the world premiere of Stuart MacRae’s The Devil Inside with Scottish Opera (nominated for best Opera in the UK Theatre Awards 2016) and which toured to Toronto in March 2016. This was followed by the world premiere of Michael Ellison’s Deniz Kustu with the Hezarfen Ensemble at the Istanbul Festival in June 2016.
In 2010 he received an Arts Council of Wales Creative Wales Award and in 2016 was awarded an MBE for services to music in Wales.
* = Stage Work
Letters of a Love Betrayed
Suite from Dancing with the Shadow
Writing to Vermeer*
Concerto for Flute and Strings
The Importance of Being Earnest*
Concerto for Orchestra
Cadenzas and Interludes
Symphony No 1
Symphony No 2
Symphony No 7
Written on Skin*
Points on the Curve to Find
Entertaining Master Punch
Down by the Greenwood Side*
Punch and Judy*
Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum
David Mark Bowden
Between Waking and Dreams
Symphony No 1
Symphony No 3
Variations on a theme of Haydn
The Rape of Lucretia*
The Turn of the Screw*
The Burning Fiery Furnace*
The Prodigal Son*
Peter Grimes Sea Interludes
Symphony No 7
The Adnan Songbook
Roll it along!
Max Charles Davies
Peter Maxwell Davies
The Martyrdom of St Magnus*
Eight Songs for a Mad King*
Dances from the Two Fiddlers
Renaissance Scottish Dances
Dinosaur at Large*
Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune
Faustus, The Last Night*
Symphony No 7
Serenade for Strings
Chanson de Matin
Chanson de Nuit
Music for Pontypridd Brass Band
The Fall of the House of Usher*
In the Penal Colony*
The Owl and the Pussy Cat
The Roswell Incident*
The Life Story of David Lloyd George*
Ellen MacArthur: Into the Eye of the Storm
Symphony No.104 The London
The Silver Swimmer
Hansel and Gretel*
The Unanswered Question
Can I join in please?
Song of Numbers
Rochester’s Second Bottle
Le Grand Macabre – Prelude for 12 Car Hooters
Fascination and Fury
For the Many Dead
A Darker Shade of Samba
The Devil Inside*
Overture – The Fairy Tale of the Fair Melusina
Incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Dances from Kafka’s Chimps
Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda*
Horn Concerto No.1
Overture The Magic Flute
Symphony No 35 in D, K385
Out of Danger
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat*
Mozart on Mortality
The Electrification of the Soviet Union*
The Piano Tuner*
Elir Owen Griffiths
Lady Masery and the Laily Worm
Of Dark Love
Music for a Quiet Place
The Stones and Lonely Places Sing
Peri (arr. Oliver)
The Cabinet of Dr Caligari
Waves to Drown In
Gwyneth and the Green Knight*
The Return of King Raedwald
House of the Gods*
Le Bal Masque
L’Histoire de Babar
The Swing of the Sea
Purcell (arr. Britten)
Pavane pur une infante defunte
Ma Mere l’Oye
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales
Hymn Tune Harmonies
A Pretty How Town
Lo Spazio Inverso
Luci mie Traditrici (The Killing Flower)*
Symphony No 4
Tenby and Solace
The Soldier’s Tale*
Symphony in C
Symphonies of Wind Instruments
The Rite of Spring
Romeo and Juliet Overture
Symphony No 4
Symphony No 5
Little Music for Strings
The Knot Garden*
Anticipatory Waltz for the End’s End
Mark Anthony Turnage
The Silver Tassie*
Prelude Tristan und Isolde
In the Locked Room*
Scenes from Under the Milk Wood
King Harald Sails to Byzantium
Songs from a Prison Diary
The Turkish Mouse
In the House of Crossed Desires*
Music from the House of Crossed Desires
G Spot Tornado
The Devil Inside, Stuart MacRae, Scottish Opera
The Guardian. January 2016
"Michael Rafferty, meanwhile, conducts a spirited and impeccably clean-edged performance."
The Telegraph. January 2016
"Michael Rafferty conducts a band of 14 instrumentalists with complete assurance."
Classical Source. February 2016
"Michael Rafferty did an outstanding job in the pit, especially when the lights went out and the ensemble and singers had to re-start the second scene when it had been going five minutes. The bright and energetic dissonance of the score is balanced with flexible vocal lines and layered conversational harmonies."
Opera. March 2016
"Michael Rafferty conjured up the very best from the ‘soloists’ of Scottish Opera’s orchestra and the cast inhabited their roles with panache."
The Times. January 2016
"Some of the instrumental combinations and disquieting riffs were so striking, so otherworldly, that I found myself peering into the orchestra pit to see how he had done it. It is all precisely conducted by Michael Rafferty and powerfully put across by the singers."
The Arts Desk. February 2016
"Fidgety and spangled from the start, the superb small orchestra under Michael Rafferty punches above its nominal weight, as in the chamber operas of Britten. The colours are often bewitching, especially in the eerie music for harp and the deflating chromatic descents of lower instruments."
What’s on Stage. February 2016
"Woodwind play poppingly along with the percussion or else stand spotlit for a brief motif; trumpet and trombone have a baleful role but it's never overdone. Michael Rafferty conducts it all with exemplary attention to balance and texture."
Greek - Mark Anthony Turnage, Tongyeong International Festival, South Korea
Opera Now August 2015, Robert Turnbull
"What really impressed, however, was the playing of a largely Korean ensemble of freelancers given barely ten hours of rehearsal before stage rehearsals. Thanks to the conducting of Michael Rafferty, the 18-piece orchestra (including 12 Koreans) brought a sense of tightness, urgency and precision to the drama."
The Trial - Philip Glass
Bachtrack, November 2014
"Michael Rafferty guided the superb MTW ensemble with an unerring sense of pace and elegance through the whole evening."
Classical Iconoclast, October 2014
"Wonderfully idiomatic playing by the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble, conducted by Michael Rafferty."
The Guardian, October 2014
"With Michael Rafferty conducting, the performances are all excellent."
The Killing Flower - Salvatore Sciarrino
Opera Britannia, October 2013
"In the end it is conductor Michael Rafferty to whom we should hand the victor’s spoils. He has not only understood the composer’s intent, empathizing with his special soundworld, conveying to young singers and instrumentalists alike how to phrase, how to breathe beauty into fragments, how to imbue a whisper with the power of a scream, but remains meticulously honest and loyal to the score. Here everything was in balance. Finally it was a case of prima la musica e poi le parole."
Greek - Mark Anthony Turnage
Financial Times, October 2013
"Best of all, the Music Theatre Wales Ensemble and conductor Michael Rafferty bring the young Turnage’s score to life in all its scintillating urban brilliance and violence, like neon lights flashing along the Mile End Road on a dark night."
Opera Today, October 2013
"The Music Theatre Wales Ensemble under Michael Rafferty played Turnage’s score as to the manner born: angry and soulful, biting and tender, urgent and yet offering oases for reflection. Whether called upon to play in conventional terms, to shout, to stamp, or even to strike a pose, there could be no gainsaying the level of artistry on offer from players and conductor alike."
Opera Magazine, September 2011
"It was the music – with its elements of jazz and rock as well as Britten and Stravinsky – that delineated the emotional landmarks. Rafferty drew beautifully articulated playing from his musicians, balancing the violence with lyrical tendresse and ensuring that the colours emerging from Turnage’s dark and edgy instrumentation were always telling."
The Times, July 2011
"tautly and thrillingly conducted by Michael Rafferty."
The Guardian, July 2011
"Conductor Michael Rafferty brings out both violence and lyricism, with Turnage's instrumental colouring wonderfully realised."
For You - CD recording - Michael Berkeley
Sunday Times, October 2010 ****
"Berkeley’s third opera (2008) is a brilliant, dark psycho-comedy...The music, conducted here by Michael Rafferty, is energetic, deftly coloured and carefully balanced, allowing the excellent voices, including Alan Opie’s Frieth, to make their due mark."
In the Penal Colony - Philip Glass
The Observer, October 2010
"conducted by Michael Rafferty, the performance was focused and taut. The Music Theatre Wales Ensemble shone in this challenging, finger-exhausting, concentration-sapping score. Catch it on tour."
Punch and Judy - Harrison Birtwistle
Independent March 2008
"..you'll be hearing Gwion Thomas's orgasmic whooping for joy as he, Punch, slashes and burns and beats his way into immortality. That and the compendium of shrieks and guffaws and cartoonish exclamations from a brilliantly accomplished 15-strong instrumental ensemble under Michael Rafferty."
A live accompaniment to the seminal German expressionist silent film, 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari'. Directed by Robert Wiene in 1919, this cult film is one of the first and most famous examples of German expressionist cinema. The unique, stylised studio sets, in which the whole piece is filmed, set this work apart and give it a highly theatrical quality, and a visual impact which is still mesmerising today.
Lynne Plowman’s score is an original, dynamic, tightly structured, contemporary music soundtrack to the film. Commissioned and premiered by the London Mozart Players, the work is scored for a chamber orchestra of eleven musicians (plus conductor) and is performed live, alongside presentations of the film on the big screen.
Michael Rafferty has conducted 10 highly successful performances of this piece with the London Mozart Players.
fl(picc); cl(bcl): bsn; tr; trb; pc; 2vln; vla; vlc; db (72’)
A video extract can be seen on Lynne Plowman's site via this link