London premiere of the revolutionary opera Abomination…

London premiere of the revolutionary opera Abomination…

The opera premiered at the Lyric Theater Belfast in 2019 and was originally produced by the Belfast Ensemble and Outburst Arts for the Outburst Queer Arts Festival, with support from the National Lottery through the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, the Paul Hamlyn Foundation and the British Council. Revolutionary in its form, Abomination: A DUP Opera instantly changed the operatic landscape, adding a distinctly Belfast voice to the international scene and setting a new benchmark for what Northern Ireland opera artists can achieve. The work centers on a scandalous live radio interview by former elected politician Iris Robinson, in which she called homosexuality an “abomination” – an act that has gone down in queer history and immediately reignited the gender equality debate.

With their characteristically impactful, multidisciplinary style, the Belfast Ensemble closes this story with a fresh web of historical public commentary on gay rights, marriage equality, “poofs” and “perverts” that challenge the power of words with shocking theatrical effect in the hands of the powerful. Contemporary, radical, comical and emotionally complex, this riotous Northern Irish original redefined what the new opera could say, to whom and why… with just a touch of drag.

Mark Ball, Artistic Director of Southbank Centersaid: “We were delighted to invite the Belfast Ensemble to perform the London premiere of Abomination: A DUP Opera at the Southbank Centre. It’s an inspirational, brilliant work that makes clever use of operatic form while simultaneously highlighting the effects of deeply rooted prejudice and homophobia and poking fun at the ideological thinking that underlies it. It’s a testament to Conor Mitchell’s exceptional writing that it received critical acclaim when it premiered in 2019, and we were thrilled to bring it to the Southbank Centre.”

Composer: Conor Mitchell,
added: “At a time of cutbacks and concerns for the arts in NI, here is an opera – an award-winning queer original – crammed with singers and musicians from Belfast on a world-leading stage. If ever there was a moment to celebrate what the arts can do for our country and why they are so important, it is this: a glorious, haunting operatic work that showcases our city’s innovation and pushes the boundaries of what opera is for’ and ‘why’.

This was the largest collective of Northern Irish opera producers to ever tour the UK, playing alongside the global classical superstars that make the Southbank Center so electrifying. The fact that we then traveled to the Brighton Festival, the gay capital of Great Britain, is a testament to the quality of our artists and the international interest in the innovative work of the Belfast Ensemble. This was a first in many ways: original, queer and a reminder that Northern Irish artists are at their best when telling their own stories.”

Ciaran Scullion, Head of Music and Opera at the Arts Council of Northern Ireland, added: “It is truly an electrifying moment for opera and musical theater from Northern Ireland – Abomination has been part of the groundbreaking programme, which runs at the Southbank Center in London before landing in Brighton, shedding light on the historic challenges facing LGBTQ+ communities face.” in NI. With the 25th anniversary of the NI Good Friday Agreement making the headlines so much lately, it’s wonderful to see how much has changed culturally. The arts are so important that they have the power to interpret and understand the past, both good and bad, and bring about something hopeful.

This is a great moment for NI Arts – the Belfast Ensemble’s subscription has also performed at London’s Southbank and Brighton; Lyric Theater Belfast, named Theater of the Year, is bringing its upbeat punk rock musical Good Vibrations to New York; a recent Oscar for “An Irish Goodbye”; Northern Ireland Opera’s award-winning Into the Woods was recently performed in Australia and Array Studios Belfast won the 2021 Turner Prize – just so much talent and quality, world-class productions from a small place with big ambitions. Congratulations to Conor Mitchell and everyone involved in this tour. This is an exceptional opera that shows just how much has changed in Northern Ireland’s cultural life.”

Ruth McCarthy, director of Outburst Artsadded, “Abomination is one of the most significant works NI has produced in the last 25 years, so it is exciting, if not surprising, that this incredible work was once again the center of attention, this time in London and Brighton.” Belfast Ensemble is one of our most valuable partners because, like Outburst, they know that art is about taking risks in form and content and we’re excited to see where the creative conversation takes us next.”

Find out more about the work of the Belfast Ensemble at


About the Arts Council of Northern Ireland

The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is the leading funding and development agency for the arts, supporting arts projects across the region through its Treasury and National Lottery funds. Our funding enables artists and arts organizations to increase access to art across society and create great art that is accessible to everyone.

Every week National Lottery players raise more than £30m for charity.

Since 1994, National Lottery players have raised more than £47 billion for charity.

More than 670,000 projects have been supported with National Lottery funds, equivalent to around 240 Lottery grants in every UK postcode area.