Madame X

Madame X


Anthony Peter and Tim Benjamin
Composer / Director
Tim Benjamin
Lara Booth
Music Director
Antony Brannick

A brilliant yet impoverished artist is caught between jealous and wealthy rivals and his crooked agent — defended only by his beautiful, vulnerable fiancée and muse...

Masetto and Zerlina — a young immigrant couple — are impoverished, cold, and starving. Masetto, a brilliant portrait artist, is being ripped off by his unscrupulous agent Botney, and circling art collectors will not take “no” for an answer.

“A gun and a nod and a bag at a broken window suffice...”

Shivering in a shabby loft, struggling to make ends meet, and exploited by the wealthy and powerful collectors Lady Brannoch and Mr Wilmore, Masetto lives for his art, protected only by his muse and love, Zerlina. Their plight becomes increasingly perilous, desperate, and deadly, until at last: revenge.

Madame X is inspired by the Italian operas of Handel and Mozart, and by Jacobean revenge drama. This dark, passionate and obsessive tale is peppered with black humour and explores the potent combination of money and power in the world of art.

“Exquisite ... inherently melancholy and ultimately soul-bearing”
Now As I Write

“Shining with a refreshing energy, creating a vibrant atmosphere ... beautifully composed with many delicious flavours and shades” A Younger Theatre

The words of Madame X have a distinctive style. Two characters in particular stand out: Masetto and Botney. Masetto, the impoverished but dedicated artist, can only communicate through the medium of art; this is reflected in the words, as Masetto only ever speaks (sometimes cryptically) by using the titles of famous paintings.

By contrast, Botney is shallow and money-grubbing - and in an effort to give his words some weight, he speaks constantly through aphorisms and idioms.

from Act 2, Scene 2:
Good morning Masetto! A Sunday well-spent brings a week of content.
[jumping to his feet, angrily] The Fortune Teller! Tooth Puller!
[referring to the street outside] Zerlina … a little spot of trouble … a tragic loss … may I offer my condolences?
Never say die! Well, perhaps in this case, but every cloud has a silver lining Masetto, remember that. Every why has a wherefore, and every man has his price. Isn’t that right Masetto?
Abuse Of Power Comes As No Surprise. Portrait of the Merchant—
I heard about your sordid arrangement, I’m sure he left her alive and well after he had his fun. Diseases of the soul are more dangerous than those of the body, Masetto! He who plays with fire will be burnt.
The Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even…

However, matters come to a head, and Masetto is unable to hold in his emotions any longer: in an outpouring of grief, for once, his mask slips and his words come from an anonymous 16th century lyric: Come again, sweet love... (performed below by Tom Morss)

“Tim Benjamin refreshingly provided an opera that succeeds in sustaining interest over nearly two hours ... The fluent, well-crafted score offers some striking moments”

“If spending hours glued to the stage in wonder is an important attribute for a production to have, then this has it ... I have fallen in love several times throughout the last few hours of my life and have experienced a range of emotion. I'm not sure I will ever get over this production, nor do I want to. A few hours of performance, but a whole many more of wonder.”
Weekend Notes

“Very modern relevance and subtle humour ... emotively sung, intelligently presented in English and with an undoubtedly talented ensemble ... a satirical gaze upon the perpetual pennilessness of the artist”
The Upcoming

“[Marc Callahan's Mr Wilmore had] dangerous charisma both vocally and physically ... [Taylor Wilson's Lady Brannoch was] all hauteur and thrilling low notes ... Benjamin directs the opera himself with considerable theatrical flair”
The Guardian


  • Tom Morss
    Tom Morss


    Tom Morss

    Tom Morss completed his post-graduate studies at the RNCM in July 2013 where he was tutored by Thomas Schulze and is now a freelance singer based currently in London.

    He sang the title role in an RNCM production of Britten’s Albert Herring, a role which he repeated in 2013 for MidWales Opera as a young artist and cover. Other roles include Nemorino (l’Elisir d’Amore, Pint Sized Opera), Lysander (A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Sheffield Winter Gardens), Narrator (The Turn of the Screw, Steel Opera), Pan (La Calisto, Hampstead Garden Opera), Valere and Tacmas (Les Indes Galantes, Woodhouse Opera Festival), Nutrice and First Soldier (l’Incoronozione de Poppea, Ryedale Festival Opera), and Masetto (Madame X, Radius Opera / Grimeborn Festival).

    As well as his work in opera, he is a regular concert and oratorio soloist, and is a member of The Philharmonia Chorus Professional Singer Scheme.

    “The vocal performances are excellent – Tom Morss’ tenor [in Madame X] hits your bones as Masetto’s life crumbles”
    A Younger Theatre

  • Laura Sheerin

    Laura Elizabeth Sheerin graduated with a Bachelor of Music Performance in 2009 and completed her Master’s in Solo Performance with Distinction in 2011 both from the Royal Northern College of Music studying with Peter Alexander Wilson, and receiving the Yamaha Vocal Scholarship 2009/10 and a Headley Trust Bursary 2010/11. Laura then went on to complete the Young Artists’ Programme with Northern Ireland Opera in 2012-13, performing several full scale and touring operatic roles and frequent recitals throughout the year.

    On the operatic stage Laura has performed the roles of Geraldine (A Hand of Bridge), Dido (Dido and Aeneas), Dew Fairy (Hansel and Gretel) with NI Opera, cover Venus (Orpheus in the Underworld) with Scottish Opera & NI Opera, and Susan (A Dinner Engagement) with Wexford Festival Opera. Laura also premiered (UK) the roles of Zerlina (Madame X) and Marie (Le gâteau d’anniversaire) with Radius Opera. Laura has performed operatic scenes at the Italian Opera Summer School in Puglia, Italy and at the Mediterranean Opera Studio throughout Sicily in July.

    Laura studied with Nelly Miricioiu and was the grateful recipient of a Young Musician’s Platform Award from the Arts Council of Northern Ireland for 2013-2015.

    “Laura Sheerin finds a beautiful balance between innocence and a feisty spirit as Zerlina [in Madame X], with a voice ready for the big stage”
    A Younger Theatre

  • Taylor Wilson
    Taylor Wilson

    Lady Brannoch

    Taylor Wilson

    Taylor Wilson, mezzo soprano, trained at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, the Royal Northern College of Music in Manchester and went on to read modern languages at Strathclyde University.

    She performs regularly in recital, where solo engagements include a Dutch radio performance and recitals in Switzerland, Los Angeles, Denmark and Hong Kong. Concert solo appearances include repertoire from the early oratorios of JS Bach and Handel, through to the works of Mahler, Rossini and Elgar, which she has performed with the Scottish Opera Connect Orchestra, Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Orchestra, BBC Philharmonic Orchestra and Scottish National Orchestra. She has performed with opera companies such as Scottish Opera, Hamburg Neuer Theater, Edinburgh Grand Opera and Salzburg Festspielhaus.

    Taylor is also a champion of new music, which is often written for her. She has enjoyed a successful collaboration with Radius Opera, for whom she has performed many times and made a CD recording. Apart from her operatic work, she has toured world wide as chanteuse and actress with her one-woman shows and has featured on several albums, film soundtracks and acted in short films.

    “Collaborating with Radius Opera has been one of the highlights of my career as a singer. There was a great mutual respect and work ethic, which allowed us to explore the music and characters in a most productive and creative way, ultimately bringing out the best in us all”

  • Marc Callahan
    Marc Callahan

    Mr Wilmore

    Marc Callahan

    Marc Callahan, bass-baritone, trained at Oberlin Conservatory of Music, Cincinnati Conservatory of Music, the Ecole Normale de Musique, and the Scola Cantorum. He was winner of the Prix Lili Boulanger at the Concours International d’Interprétation de la Mélodie Française, and apprenticed with the Central City Opera (where he was awarded the Studio Artist Award), Des Moines Metro Opera, Sarasota Opera, Santa Fe Opera, Britten-Pears Academy and the Centre National d’Insertion Professionelle des Artistes Lyriques.

    Marc Callahan’s performance career has taken him around the world, singing at opera houses such as: The Royal Opera House, Santa Fe Opera, Théâtre des Champs Elysées, Théâtre du Capitole, Opéra National de Lyon, Opéra de Montpellier, Opéra Comique, Théâtre Royale de Versailles, Opéra de Marseille, Central City Opera, Dayton Opera, the Ohio Light Opera and Opera North (UK), among others.

    As an opera director, Dr. Callahan has received critical acclaim for his production of Jean-Philippe Rameau’s Les Indes Galantes, and has also assisted on Martin Duncan’s productions at the Royal Opera House, the Aldeburgh Festival and the Holland Festival.

    “The cast [of Madame X] gave consistently strong performances ... Callahan providing wickedly glamorous tone”
    Opera Magazine

  • Jon Stainsby

    Jon Stainsby completed a doctorate on 17th-century English literature at the University of Oxford before training at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland’s Opera School. He now pursues a varied freelance career encompassing opera, concert, recital and ensemble work. He sings with a number of Europe's foremost vocal ensembles, including solo appearances with the Academy of Ancient Music, Dunedin Consort and Vox Luminis in venues including the Barbican and Wigmore Hall. Other recent highlights include the baritone role in Claude Vivier Kopernikus for Dutch National Opera, Bottom/Demetrius in a modern re-working of Purcell's Fairy Queen at Iford, and covering the title role in Le nozze di Figaro for Garsington Festival Opera.

    “The cast [of Madame X] gave consistently strong performances ... as Masetto’s dodgy, platitude-spouting agent, the baritone Jon Stainsby (Botney) displayed outstandingly alert responses to text, music and stage partners”
    Opera Magazine

Violin / Leader
Charlotte Dowding
Clemence Hazael-Massieux
Stephanie Gordon
Alistair Howes
Lynda Robertson
Rachael Gibbon
Harpsichord, Repetiteur
Jenny Sheldon
Stage Manager
Anjali Vyas-Brannick
Technical Manager & Lights
James Claxton
Mark Fielden
Production Assistant
Shannon Saunders
Design Assistant
Lucy Clayton
Design Assistant
Claire Lilley


Hippodrome, Todmorden
21st August 2014
Square Chapel, Halifax
22nd-23rd August 2014
Arcola Theatre, London
25th-27th August 2014
RNCM Opera Theatre, Manchester
25th September 2014