When the Flame Dies

A stunning new opera based on lost love, ethical quandaries, betrayal and the Orpheus legend.

Available to buy via Metier or Amazon

Ed Hughes - When the Flame Dies Metier CD/DVD

I belong to a generation for whom Cocteau was very important. I'm fascinated by the opera.

Barrie Gavin, film-maker.

Teeming with ideas and instrumental textures and at heart a lyrical composer's voice.

Paul Robinson, composer.

Beware: this opera may take you hostage with its ability to get under your skin and its willingness to use any technological means to do so... Loosely based on Jean Cocteau's history of heartbreak, opium addiction and impaired creativity, Hughes's Poet protagonist is faced with a choice... as with any good opera, this one convincingly creates its own logic... Roger Morris's libretto gains much of its entrancing quality through the leeway of ambiguity plus provocative discussions about the moral implications of bringing people back to life. The 12-member ensemble reveals much effective compositional strategy with motivic repetition, nagglingly obsessive long-held notes in the winds and just plain alchemy...Purely electronic interludes are full of oblique commentary...

David Patrick Stearns, Gramophone, 1 May 2014 on When the Flame Dies (review of Metier CD/DVD release)

Hughes's music fizzes with invention, deriving maximum colour from his small band... There's also a striking electronic interlude, crackling into life through radio static to represent Cocteau's 'Zone', the liminal space between dream and reality, inspiration and banality.

Leo Chadburn, Tempo (Vol 68, Issue 268, April 2014), pp 105-10720 March 2014 on When the Flame Dies (review of three recent opera DVDs including Tempest (Ades) and Written on Skin (Benjamin))

Following on from Dark Formations, the wide-ranging conspectus of his ensemble and instrumental music (reviewed in January 2013), Metier continues its coverage of Ed Hughes with his chamber opera When the Flame Dies...The present piece has its basis in the life and work of Jean Cocteau – specifically the tragically young death of his muse (and probably lover) Raymond Radiguet, whose passing was both commemorated and transcended in the play Orphée – as well as more indirectly several plays and films...the composer’s constant resourcefulness is evident from the two interludes that are inserted roughly a third and two-thirds of the way through the score: the first of these solely for electronics (whose presence is discreetly pervasive across the work as a whole), and the second a brief though limpid passage for ensemble that points up the sensitivity of Hughes’s scoring. As with the music on that previous release, his idiom is broadly that of a post-war modernism which is personal enough to resonate with the listener... this release enables one to get to grips with one of the more arresting and distinctive chamber operas to have emerged in the UK over recent years.

Richard Whitehouse, International Record Review 1 March 2014


When The Flame Dies is an opera by Ed Hughes to a libretto by Roger Morris which draws upon the relationship between Jean Cocteau and poet Raymond Radiguet.

In addition to the audio recording, this set features a live concert performance from the Canterbury Festival in 2012 complete with the visual projections and subtitled libretto. The DVD also includes the short film 'The Symptoms Of His Madness Were As Follows:', which uses the Ed Hughes track 'Chamber Concerto I' from the Metier CD Dark Formations MSV 28530.

Dual CD and DVD release on Metier 4 November 2013. With essays by Prof James Williams and Prof Michal Grover-Friedlander.

The work reflects on French poet and film-maker Jean Cocteau's interest in the Orpheus myth. The release format allows viewing in stereo or in 5.1. 

Video extracts from this release:

The Princess (Lucy Williams) tells the Poet to seek Orpheus's help. The Poet sinks into a dream/underworld.

Orpheus (Julian Podger) and Eurydice (Emily Phillips) reflect on their condition in the half light of the underworld.

The Princess sings of a world 'outside time'.

Raymond's aria.

The ensemble on the agonised Poet's duty.

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Ed Hughes


Opera in one Act (2012)

Libretto by Roger Morris

Projection Design by Will Reynolds

Live concert performance by the New Music Players


Conductor Carlos del Cueto

Poet (baritone) Edward Grint

Princess Death (mezzo-soprano) Lucy Williams

Orpheus (tenor) Julian Podger

Eurydice (soprano) Emily Phillips

Raymond (counter-tenor) Andrew Radley


New Music Players

Flute Rowland Sutherland

Clarinet Fiona Cross

Trumpet Edward Maxwell

Horn Richard Steggall

Percussion Owen Gunnell

Harp Federica Mossone

Piano Richard Casey

Violin Susanne Stanzeleit

Violin Adam Summerhayes

Viola Bridget Carey

Cello Andrew Fuller

Double Bass Lucy Shaw


CD [stereo audio] | DVD [stereo & 5.1]

1. ‘Can’t write’ 2:09

2. ‘My love is dead’ 2:04

3. ‘If only’ 4:16

4. ‘Before you pull the trigger’ 3:10

5. ‘Eternal Orpheus’ 3:46

6. Interlude 1 (electronic) 1:41

7. ‘I am Orpheus’ 3:44

8. ‘I am forever the singer’ 4:34

9. ‘You wanted her dead!’ 3:36

10. Interlude 2 (instrumental) 3:43

11. ‘Our perfect hours’ 3:49

12. ‘Aren’t you going to answer it?’ 4:40

13. ‘There are no memories’ 2:19

14. ‘The rising of the sap’ 6:12

15. ‘Killer in the poet’s mask’ 1:48

16. ‘The candle is burnt out’ 5:50

Total length: 57:24


DVD only: extra ‘The Symptoms Of His Madness Were As Follows:’ (2012), a film by Sheryl Jenkins


Video Artists Loren O'Dair & Peter Kirk

Sound Engineers Morgan Roberts & Simon Weir

Cameras Simon Weir & Ian Habgood

Sound and technical support Danny Bright

Sound design consultant Antony Pitts

Disc cover photograph of Loren O’Dair by Bob Prosser


Wednesday 17 Oct 2012, Augustine Hall, Canterbury Christchurch University

Canterbury Festival 2012

In association with Sounds New

When the Flame Dies concert performance supported by the RVW Trust

Thanks for support to: Sounds New and Michelle Castelletti; Brighton Festival; OperaGenesis, ROH2 and John Lloyd Davies

University of Sussex School of Media, Film and Music, and the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre

Special thanks to the musicians, and to Liz Webb


Concert produced by Liz Webb for Liz Webb Management

DVD Director Simon Weir