Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Creative Writing Lecturer directs Rita at West Green House Opera

Tuesday, 06 March 2018


Donizetti's Rita was performed with a new English libretto, written and directed by Dr Morag Joss in July. It opened to capacity audiences and 5-star reviews.

Rita is a one act ‘opéra comique’ composed by Gaetano Donizetti. The plot revolves around the main character Rita, who is presented as a domineering wife, in addition to her former and current husband(s) Gaspard and Peppe. 

Dr Joss was commissioned by West Green House to develop the libretto for the new run of the show. She was also asked to design and direct the production, in collaboration with conductor James Sherlock. For Dr Joss, it was an opportunity to reform the ideas behind the libretto, she said, “Whilst Rita is presented as a domestic comedy, abuse is the underlying premise. I decided to re-imagine the character of battered husband Peppe - through the libretto - so that in the end he's the smart guy, not the fall guy. Ultimately, forgiveness is the ultimate strength.”. 

“I enjoyed the experience immensely and was working all day long with a wonderful musical score, which novelists don't often get to do. It brought together my two loves - music and words."Dr Joss is  an acclaimed novelist and teaches on the MA Creative Writing course at Oxford Brookes University. Amongst her 8 novels, two have been adapted into film and play. Both Penelope Wilton and Pauline Collins have starred in these adaptations.

Following the success of Rita, Dr Joss has been asked back by the West Green House Opera, and she will tackle Offenbach’s Ba-ta-clan in 2018. However, she states that she intends to downplay its racially insensitive Orientalist nature and capitalise on its potential as a caricature of 'grand opera’ instead.

Dr Joss was awarded her PhD from Oxford Brookes in 2014 (based on her own work) and has previously studied at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama. Her staff page can be found here.