It's officially summer in the northern hemisphere, but I'm looking back on an incredible spring: specifically 3rd April 2022, and the premiere of Girl with a Pearl Earring: The Opera at Zurich Opera House. That's right, an opera!

That novel about a Dutch painting is having a long and blessed life. When I wrote it back in 1998, I could imagine it as a film, a radio dramatization, even a play. But never did I expect it to become an opera.

The music is by Swiss composer Stefan Wirth, the libretto by Philip Littell. It's Stefan who got the ball rolling several years ago: when Zurich Opera House suggested he write them a new opera and asked what subject he wanted to do, he chose my novel! I owe him a great debt for his passion and determination.

It is a very modern opera, with music that is more textural than melodic. The orchestra is full of percussion making strange noises. The staging is minimalist, with a big lightbox revolving around. There's so little on stage that when you see a bucket, or a flower, or a chair, it becomes important.

There are 8 singers, all superb. Lauren Snouffer sings Griet, and what a part - she's on stage the whole time. And the eminent Thomas Hampson is Vermeer.

I was lucky enough to attend rehearsals early on, and director Ted Huffman was incredibly generous not only in allowing me into the room, but letting me speak and asking me questions! I loved watching the singers explore their parts and build the opera from the ground up.

And then, the premiere: a full house, friends and family in the audience, a buzz in the air. 

Vermeer and Griet in dress

Vermeer Catharina Griet

Vermeer Children

kim stage bow 3 edit

I got to take a stage bow with composer Stefan Wirth!

The response to the opera has been remarkable, with both audience and critics loving it. Yes, it's minimalist stage, yes, the music is different and challenging. But the story is clear and recognisable, with characters you care about. I am thrilled. For a brief taste of what the opera looks and sounds like, here's a trailer:

The opera performances are over for now, but there are hopes that it will travel in the next few years to other opera houses. I will keep you posted!