‘It is the night before Yoel’s wedding, an arranged marriage within his Orthodox Hasidic community. He is wracked with doubt. A chance encounter with a stranger reveals truths about Yoel that change everything’.


Mamzer Bastard is the latest opera by Israeli-born composer Na’ama Zisser, and the culmination of her doctoral residency with The Royal Opera and the Guildhall School of Music and Drama.

In Mamzer/Bastard Zisser tells a story set within the Orthodox Jewish community, merging her own musical idiom with the Jewish cantorial style of the 20th century. ‘Mamzer’ is a Hebraic word that roughly translates as ‘bastard’ – it denotes a person born from a relationship that is forbidden according to Jewish religious law. Through her setting within the New York Hasidic community in the 1970s, Zisser explores how much a person will sacrifice for their religion, their community and other people’s happiness. Mamzer/Bastard is the first opera to ever feature and reference Orthodox-Jewish Cantorial music, with a role written for a Cantor.

Premiere 14th-18th June 2018
The Royal Opera in association with Hackney Empire
Co-commission with The Guildhall School of Music & Drama

Written for:

Six singers: Mezzo-soprano/Alto, Countertenor, Tenor, Baritone, Child singer and a Cantor
Chamber ensemble: Vln, Vla, Vc, Db, Sax (sop+alt+tenor), Cl/B.Cl, Hn, Trb, Perc, Pno & Organ
Sung in English, Hebrew, Yiddish, Aramaic with English subtitles
Live cameras/projections
All singers and ensemble are amplified
Duration: 1hr and 30minutes, there is no interval


Music: Na'ama Zisser
Libretto: Samantha Newton and Rachel C. Zisser
Director: Jay Scheib
Designer: Madeleine Boyd
Lighting designer: D.M. Wood
Video designer: Paulina Jurzec
Soundtrack designer: Yair Elazar Glotman
Conductor: Jessica Cottis 

Original cast:

Yoel - Collin Shay
Younger Yoel - Edward Hyde 
Esther - Gundula Hintz
Menashe - Robert Burt
Stranger - Stephen Place
David (Cantor) - Netanel Hershtik
Aurora Orchestra

Royal Opera House production page