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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

John Adams

Thomas Ades
Living Toys
The Tempest*

Eleanor Alberga
Letters of a Love Betrayed
Suite from Dancing with the Shadow

Julian Anderson
Alhambra Fantasy

Louis Andriessen
Writing to Vermeer*

Malcolm Arnold
Concerto for Flute and Strings

Gerald Barry
The Importance of Being Earnest*

Bela Bartok
Concerto for Orchestra

Carola Baukholt

David Bedford
Cadenzas and Interludes

Corialanus Overture
Egmont Overture
Symphony No 1
Symphony No 2
Symphony No 7

George Benjamin
Written on Skin*

Luciano Berio
O King
Points on the Curve to Find

Michael Berkeley
Jane Eyre*
Entertaining Master Punch
For You*

Symphonie Fantastique

Harrison Birtwistle
Down by the Greenwood Side*
Punch and Judy*
Carmen Arcadiae Mechanicae Perpetuum
Silbury Air

Philippe Boesmans

Pierre Boulez

David Mark Bowden
Between Waking and Dreams

Symphony No 1
Symphony No 3
Variations on a theme of Haydn

Benjamin Britten
Simple Symphony
Sinfonietta Op1
The Rape of Lucretia*
The Turn of the Screw*
Curlew River*
The Burning Fiery Furnace*
The Prodigal Son*
Peter Grimes Sea Interludes
Church Parables

Symphony No 7

Gavin Bryars
The Adnan Songbook
Martin Butler
Roll it along!

Philip Cashian
Moon Song

Steve Crowther

Max Charles Davies

Peter Maxwell Davies
Purcell Fantasia
The Martyrdom of St Magnus*
Eight Songs for a Mad King*
Dances from the Two Fiddlers
Renaissance Scottish Dances
The Lighthouse*
Dinosaur at Large*
Jupiter Landing*
Dangerous Errand*

Michael Daugherty
Dead Elvis

Prelude à l’après midi d’un faune

Pascal Dusapin
Faustus, The Last Night*

Symphony No 7

Edward Elgar
Serenade for Strings
Salut d’Amour
Chanson de Matin
Chanson de Nuit

Michael Ellison
Deniz Kustu*

Michael Finnissy
Mr Punch*
Music for Pontypridd Brass Band

Philip Glass
The Fall of the House of Usher*
In the Penal Colony*
The Trial*

Julian Grant
The Owl and the Pussy Cat

John Hardy
The Roswell Incident*
The Life Story of David Lloyd George*
Ellen MacArthur: Into the Eye of the Storm

Jonathan Harvey
Soleil Noir/Chitra

Joseph Haydn
Symphony No.104 The London

Morgan Hayes
Senedd Sound

Alun Hoddinott
The Silver Swimmer

Gustav Holst

Englebert Humperdinck
Hansel and Gretel*

Charles Ives
Symphony No.3
Ragtime Dances
The Unanswered Question

Ruth Jewell
Can I join in please?

Paul Kellett
Song of Numbers

Oliver Knussen
Ophelia Dances

Hans Kox
Rochester’s Second Bottle

Gyorgy Ligeti
Piano Concerto
Le Grand Macabre – Prelude for 12 Car Hooters

Magnus Lindberg

Nick Lloyd
Fascination and Fury

Enid luff
For the Many Dead

Witold Lutoslawski
Chain 1

Jayson Mackie
A Darker Shade of Samba

Stuart MacRae
Ghost Patrol*
The Devil Inside*

Steve Martland
Remembering Lennon

Colin Matthews
Suns Dance

Nicholas Maw
Ghost Dances

Overture – The Fairy Tale of the Fair Melusina
Incidental music to A Midsummer Night’s Dream

John Metcalf
Dances from Kafka’s Chimps

Claudio Monteverdi
Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda*

Tom Morgan
Inventing Flight

Kath Morris

The Impresario*
Bassoon Concerto
Horn Concerto No.1
Overture The Magic Flute
Symphony No 35 in D, K385

Dominic Muldowney
Out of Danger

Tristan Murail
Winter Fragments

Patrick Nunn

Michael Nyman
The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat*
Mozart on Mortality

Stephen Oliver
The Garden*

Nigel Osborne
The Electrification of the Soviet Union*
The Piano Tuner*

Elir Owen Griffiths
Puppet Master

Christopher Painter
Cad Goddeu
Aderyn Rhiannon

Michael Parkin
Lady Masery and the Laily Worm
Still Life

Suzanne Parry
Of Dark Love

Daniel Parrott
Music for a Quiet Place

Anthony Payne
The Stones and Lonely Places Sing

Peri (arr. Oliver)

Lynne Plowman
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

Anthony Powers
Fast Colours
The Swing of the Sea

Purcell (arr. Britten)

Guto Puw
Y Twr

Maurice Ravel
Pavane pur une infante defunte
Ma Mere l’Oye
Valses Nobles et Sentimentales

Timothy Raymond
Hymn Tune Harmonies

Peter Reynolds
Serenata III

Michael Robinson
A Pretty How Town

Carl Ruggles


Salvatore Sciarrino
Lo Spazio Inverso
Luci mie Traditrici (The Killing Flower)*

Arnold Schoenberg
Kammersymphonie op.9
Pierrot Lunaire*

Symphony No 4

Bob Smith
Tenby and Solace

Luke Starkey

Karlheinz Stockhausen

Kaiser Waltz

Igor Stravinsky
The Soldier’s Tale*
Petroushka (excerpt)
Symphony in C
Symphonies of Wind Instruments
The Rite of Spring

Toru Takemitsu

Romeo and Juliet Overture
Symphony No 4
Symphony No 5

Michael Tippett
Little Music for Strings
The Knot Garden*

Simon Thorne
Anticipatory Waltz for the End’s End

Michael Torke
Adjustable Wrench

Andrew Toovey

Mark Anthony Turnage
Three Farewells
Anna Nicole*
Dark Crossing
The Silver Tassie*

Edgar Varese

Param Vir

Rolf Wallin

William Walton

Prelude Parsifal
Prelude Tristan und Isolde

Huw Watkins
Crime Fiction*
In the Locked Room*
Scenes from Under the Milk Wood

Judith Weir
King Harald Sails to Byzantium

Veryan Weston
Songs from a Prison Diary

John Woolrich
The Turkish Mouse
In the House of Crossed Desires*
Music from the House of Crossed Desires

Iannis Xenakis

Frank Zappa
G Spot Tornado

Press reviews

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."

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Lynne Plowman

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

Michael Rafferty 2