polly graham

director

biography

Opera and theatre director Polly Graham is Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera and Founder and Artistic Director of Loud Crowd. A recipient of the Independent Opera Director Fellowship 2016, Graham’s productions have won Best Opera Production in the Wales Theatre Awards in both 2017 & 2018; she was nominated in the Newcomer category of the 2017 International Opera Awards and for the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist Award 2017.

Graham made her Vienna State Opera début in 2019 directing the world première of Olga Neuwirth Orlando. Recent seasons have seen her staging diverse repertoire such as the world première of Dani Howard Robin Hood for The Opera Story, The Gondoliers for the Royal Welsh School of Music and Drama, Dido & Aeneas for Blackheath Halls Community Opera as well as The Emperor of Atlantis with Loud Crowd at Bold Tendencies, London.

Graham’s main-stage début for Welsh National Opera with Frank Martin Le Vin Herbé attracted critical acclaim and  followed two years with the company as a Genesis Assistant where she also directed the UK premiere of Iain Bell’s A Christmas Carol as well as Maxwell Davies Kommilitonen! Elsewhere she has directed the UK première of Karl Amadeus Hartmann Simplicius Simplicissimus for Independent Opera at Sadler’s Wells; A Christmas Carol in Trento, Le Vin Herbé (Der Zaubertrank) for Theater St Gallen and Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria for Longborough Festival Opera

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Polly Graham read English at Trinity College, Dublin and completed an MA in Text and Performance at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. Whilst a student she gained experience with the Santa Cruz Shakespeare Festival, Streetwise Opera, Teatr Pieśń Kosła and Le Théâtre du Soleil.

Her plans include Bloom Brittania, a new community opera by Orlando Gough and Stephen Plaice and The Magic Flute productions for the Royal College of Music.

September 2021

Polly Graham is represented for General Management. For all enquiries please contact Caroline Phillips cphillips@caroline-phillips.co.uk

reviews

Il Ritorno d’Ulisse in Patria – Longborough Festival Opera

Polly Graham’s bold production for Longborough sets the Odyssean climax in modern-day America, with a vivacious cast on top form

One artist not afraid of tackling things differently is Polly Graham, whose new staging of Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria (The Return of Ulysses to his Homeland) is also her first production as Longborough’s artistic director…. Monteverdi’s masterpiece is one of the earliest operas in the repertoire that speaks directly to modern ears, and Graham capitalises on this with a staging of intense physicality.

**** The Telegraph, 14 July 2021

… in Polly Graham’s new production, …we have ringside seats at a drama exploring the tensions between love and honour, chastity and pleasure, longing and return. Human appetites, of lust, gluttony, violence, revenge, burn in their rawness.

**** The Times, 14 July 2021

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That human drama – that sense of individuals fighting through brutality and squalor to some sort of hope – was the real journey in this Ulisse, and Graham steered it with relentless, unsparing honesty and determination.

The Arts Desk, 19 July 2021

Strongly cast and intensely focused production that reconciles legend and modernity

Staged by Longborough’s artistic director Polly Graham, this production of Monteverdi’s The Return of Ulysses draws strength from its setting in the festival’s temporary big top. In the round, the action emphasises Penelope’s vulnerability as she is staked out by persistent suitors, and the adversarial mood of Act II, when Ulisse (Ulysses) confronts and murders them.

The Stage, 19 July 2021

A taut new production

Polly Graham’s new production moves the action to present-day America ****

Transposing the action to present-day America … Graham’s staging draws out the threads of trauma that run right through a story that broods on the damage human beings do to one another…There’s a surgical precision to Graham’s direction. Her attention to detail is meticulous and in this close-quarters venue her young cast give us television-style intimacy…Festival artistic director Polly Graham hasn’t pulled her punches with this, her first production for Longborough. It’ll be exciting to see what comes next.

**** The Independent, 21 July 2021

Olga Neuwirth Orlando – Vienna State Opera

.. the evening benefits immensely from the fundamentally static staging by Polly Graham which sees Orlando more as a sound installation than as an opera. Elaborate in its minimalism, the event resembles an oratorio and can be viewed as a fragmentation of the usual form, as art that consciously carries its artificiality before it.

Vol.at (translation), 9 December 2019

Robin Hood – The Opera Story

And, if at any point the audience felt in danger of slipping into a reverie, there was no lack of imaginative theatrical devices – handiwork of director Polly Graham – to keep them hooked into the drama.

Bachtrack, 28 February 2019

Dido and Aeneas – Blackheath Community Opera

Polly Graham’s vision of Dido and Aeneas is earthy, vigorous and gritty.

Graham’s Dido … was true to the work’s humanity, and performed with commitment and not inconsiderable charm.

Opera Today, 17 July 2018

Der Zaubertrank – St Gallen

The director Polly Graham has integrated the space into her concept of directing with fascinating creative power. Together with the choreographer Jo Fong, the lighting designer Tim Mitchell and the soloists, she lets the chorus and extras occupy it with excitement … the arc of intensity never breaks, you remain continuously involved, the 100 nonstop minutes fly by. Precisely because the unusual space is used so intelligently, it needs little scenery.

(translation)
Oper-Aktuell, 2 February 2018

Le Vin Herbé – Welsh National Opera

 Welsh Theatre Awards 2018: Best Opera

UK Theatre Awards: Achievement in Opera nomination

 …in her first mainstage production for WNO, Polly Graham tapped into the work’s implicit theatricality and modernity to create a staging that held one captive and captivated throughout

Opera, April 2017

How then would director Polly Graham turn Martin’s strange and delicate oratorio into a piece of theatre big enough to fill an opera stage? Brilliantly, in my opinion.

Critic’s Circle, 22 February 2017

That the whole show – played without an interval – weaves a magical spell is testament not only to the sympathy and intelligence with which Graham has approached her task but to the excellence of the chorus as lynchpin…

Verdict: Beautifully judged staging of Frank Martin’s oratorio.

4* The Stage February 17, 2017

… in director Polly Graham’s revelatory staging for Welsh National Opera it proves loaded with existential dilemmas as potent as the philtre the lovers fatefully imbibe.

5* The Independent

It’s a tribute to director Polly Graham’s vigorous and economical production that the opera nevertheless took on a power to move… in all, the production showed that the legend can bear a very different interpretation to Wagner’s.

4* The Telegraph, 17 February 2017

Polly Graham’s stark but brilliant new staging of the work … the ritual of life, love and death unfolds with a quiet but unerring monumentality. Moments of theatrical gesture are few but strong.

5* The Guardian, 17 February 2017

Simplicius Simplicissimus – Independent Opera – Sadler’s Wells

Polly Graham’s intensely physical production for Independent Opera cleverly moves between 17th and 20th century Germany, underscoring that, whatever the era, war will always brutalise its protagonists.

4* The Observer, 20 November 2016

Polly Graham breathes fiery life into Harmann’s flawed drama.

Polly Graham’s explosively physical production for Independent Opera harnesses its outrage to fiery effect.

 The Arts Desk, 15 November 2016

Polly Graham’s production reimagines Simplicius (Stephanie Corley) as a boy left alone in a bombed-out house at the end of the second world war, and surveys its narratives through his imagination. Hartmann envisaged his protagonist as a teenager rather than a child, but the concept allows Graham to glide freely between the 20th and 17th centuries and to underscore Hartmann’s point that war indiscriminately brutalises all its participants … Both work and staging only pull their punches in the final scene, which will haunt you long after leaving the theatre.

 4* The Guardian, 14 November 2016

…. Simplicius Simplicissimus has waited long for its UK premier. At least Polly Graham’s production for Independent Opera, using a sharp new translation by David Pountney, is worthy of the task. And it is a lot more too: 100 minutes of thrilling and sometimes shocking physical theatre … Resisting the temptation to set the whole thing in the Nazi era, Graham goes for an eclectic period mix spiced by black-comedy stylisation … What’s most impressive, however, is the resourceful way she utilises every inch of the restricted space ..

5* The Times, 14 November 2016

Simply Brilliant: Hartmann’s Simplissimuss Simplicissimus at Sadler’s Wells … Polly Graham’s terrific staging – a thrilling physical tour de force that matches the intensity of the music and drama. She marshals her cast with great mastery … In all, it would be hard to imagine a better introduction of this fascinating and gripping work to British audiences.

5* Bachtrack, 12 November 2016

Kommilitonen! – Welsh National Youth Opera – Memo, Barry

Welsh Theatre Awards 2017: Best Opera

Polly Graham’s brilliantly conceived staging… The atmosphere combined vibrancy with volatility… The use of the Memo Arts Centre by Graham and the designer Gabriella Slade was highly imaginative. Graham’s instinct to intercut tighter perspectives … brought a cinematic dimension to everything reinforcing the feeling of being a witness to real-life events.  Perhaps the highest compliment to be paid is that this was Graham Vick-style work at its most immediate and exhilarating.

Opera, October 2016

Polly Graham’s brilliant, explosive new production…This has got to be one of the operatic events of the year

Wales Arts Review,  1 August 2016

the work emerged incredibly strongly here in director Polly Graham’s inclusive, immersive, promenade-style staging, almost cinematic in its boldness.

5* The Guardian, 31 July 2016

In Welsh National Youth Opera’s stirring new production, this docu-opera is sobering and uplifting … the director Polly Graham transforms this piece into a promenade opera. Her Kommilitonen! is set in the round. … it clarified rather than confused events, keeping us alert and involved.

4* The Times, 29 July 2016

… this production, by Polly Graham, is a dazzlingly impressive affair

 5* The Arts Desk, 29 July 2016

news

Behind the scenes with director Polly Graham

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6N62wHhopS4 Watch director Polly Graham work with students at The Royal College of Music on their production of The Magic Flute.

Polly Graham directs The Magic Flute

Opera director Polly Graham stages The Magic Flute with students at the Royal College of Music. There are performances on November 20, 22, 24 & 26 at the Britten Theatre, London with Michael Rosewell conducting. The production is set between the worlds of a...

Bloom Britannia with Barefoot Opera

Director Polly Graham has been working with the people of Hastings, St. Leonards-on-sea and Bexhill culminating in the staging of Bloom Britannia, a community opera by Orlando Gough to a libretto by Stephen Plaice. Developed by Barefoot Opera over several years...

Polly Graham stages Return of Ulysses at Longborough

Director Polly Graham, Artistic Director of Longborough Festival Opera, appears as a guest on BBC Radio 3 In Tune on July 9. Her staging of Monteverdi The Return of Ulysses will be performed in the Big Top at the festival on July 13, 15, 17 & 18. Conducted by CPM...

Polly Graham’s Orlando production live stream from Vienna

The Vienna State Opera is offering a free stream of director Polly Graham’s 2019 production of Olga Neuwirth Orlando for 24 hours from at 19:00 (CET) on November 7. Drawn from the Virginia Woolf novel of the same name Orlando is conducted by Matthias Pintscher and the...

Magical Monteverdi animation

https://youtu.be/W49gr-cUBSI The cast and creatives of Longborough Festival Opera's postponed The Return of Ulysses, including director Polly Graham, conductor Robert Howarth and tenor Andrew Irwin have all contributed to this touching and magical animation. Enjoy.

Polly Graham’s Wiener Staatsoper Orlando production online

Director Polly Graham’s production of Olga Neuwirth Orlando for the Vienna State Opera will be streamed at 19:00 Central European Summer Time tomorrow, June 23. Watching is free but subject to registration. Learn more.

Polly Graham Vienna State Opera debut

Polly Graham will direct Olga Neuwirth’s Orlando at the Vienna State Opera. The world première on 8 December 2019 will feature stage design by Roy Spahn, lighting by Ulrich Schneider with videos by Will Duke and costumes by Comme des Garçons. The cast, conducted by...

Polly Graham – Emperor of Atlantis 4* – The Times

Director Polly Graham's latest production, Victor Ullmann's The Emperor of Atlantis with her company Loud Crowd at Bold Tendencies, was described by The Times as "intense, manic and disturbing" ****.

Polly Graham directs Robin Hood with Nicholas Merryweather in the title role

Director Polly Graham stages the world premiere of Robin Hood by emerging composer Dani Howard for The Opera Story with baritone Nicholas Merryweather creating the title role. Opening on February 27 at the Bussey Building, a former cricket bat factory, in Peckham,...