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Gerald Barry

Gerald Barry

Country of origin: Ireland
Birthday: April 28, 1952

Upcoming Performances

Le Vieux Sourd
April 26, 2024 | Dublin (Ireland) , Kevin Barry Recital Hall

About Gerald Barry

The world now has something rare: a new genuinely comic opera and maybe the most inventive Oscar Wilde opera since Richard Strauss' Salome more than a century ago. – The Los Angeles Times on The Importance of Being Earnest

Gerald Barry was born in Clarehill, Clarecastle, County Clare, Ireland, in 1952, and studied with Stockhausen and Kagel. His early music from 1979 included "_______" for ensemble, of which Kagel wrote: 'Gerald Barry is always sober, but might as well always be drunk. His piece "_______" is, on the contrary, not rectilineal, but 'a very wiggly line'. Also from 1979 is Ø for two pianos in which both pianos play identical music simultaneously.

Barry’s substantial catalogue includes a number of works for orchestra. Chevaux-de-frise for the 1988 BBC Proms, The Conquest of Ireland (1996), Day (2005/14), The Eternal Recurrence (2000), a setting of Nietzsche for voice and orchestra, and Hard D (1995) for the Orkest de Volharding, were all commissioned by the BBC. No other people, was presented at the 2013 Proms with the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and Ilan Volkov. Canada (2017), a short work for voice and orchestra, was premiered by the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra and tenor Allan Clayton under Mira Gražinytė-Tyla at the 2017 BBC Proms. Canada received its US premiere at the 2019 Tanglewood Music Festival. Humiliated and Insulted (2016) for chorus and orchestra was co-commissioned by Raidió Teilifís Éireann and the Royal Scottish National Orchestra. 

Amongst his orchestral works is a growing body of concertos. Barry’s Piano Concerto (2012), written for Nicolas Hodges and co-commissioned by Musica Viva and City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, was premiered in Munich in 2013 with subsequent performances by the CBSO, Avanti! Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, RTÉ National SymphonyOrchestra and at the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music conducted by Cristian Măcelaru. Commissioned by the CBSO, London’s Southbank Centre and RTÉ, his Organ Concerto (2018) received its world premiere in March 2018 with the CBSO, followed by performances by the London Philharmonic Orchestra and the RTÉ NSO. The Organ Concerto received its German premiere in Cologne during autumn 2019 with the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie Bremen conducted by Duncan Ward and also in 2019 was the premiere of Barry's Viola Concerto (2018-19), commissioned by Lawrence Power and performed with the Britten Sinfonia and Thomas Adès. As part of Cellissimo 2022, a fourth concerto for cello was premiered by soloist Adrian Brophy and the RTÉ Concert Orchestra before his most recent concerto, Aus Die bitteren Tranen der Petra von Kant written for Double Bassist Matthew MacDonald and the Berlin Philharmonic, was premiered in June 2022 to rave reviews. 

Several ensemble works have been written for Birmingham Contemporary Music Group (BCMG), including Wiener Blut (2000), Dead March (2007), and Beethoven (2008). London's Southbank Centre commissioned God Save The Queen (2001) for choir and chamber ensemble for the London Sinfonietta as part of the Royal Festival Hall’s 50th birthday celebrations. Le Vieux Sourd (2008) for piano was written for Betty Freeman, Feldman’s Six-Penny Editions (2008/9)was commissioned by London Sinfonietta and Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and No people. (2013) was written for ensemble 7Bridges.

Barry is well known for his contribution to the opera repertoire. His first opera The Intelligence Park (1981–88), released as a recording on NMC in 2002, was commissioned by the ICA and first performed at the 1990 Almeida Festival. A new production by Music Theatre Wales opened at Covent Garden in September 2019, followed by performances around the UK throughout the autumn. A second opera, The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit (1991), written for Channel 4 Television, opened the 2002 Aldeburgh Festival, followed by performances in London and the BerlinerFestwochen conducted by Thomas Adés. A new staging took place in 2013 at the Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (2001–4) was premiered in 2005 in Dublin with subsequent performances at English National Opera that year and at Theater Basel in 2008. The RTÉ NSO recording has been re-released on the discovery label. La Plus Forte (2007), a one-act opera, was commissioned by Radio France for the 2007 Festival Présences. It was premiered by Barbara Hannigan in Paris, and toured to Amsterdam, London, Dublin, Miami, Toronto and Porvoo, Finland. In 2019, Barry created an English version of the work, which was performed by the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Thomas Adès.

Barry’s fifth opera, The Importance of Being Earnest (2009–10), was jointly commissioned by the LA Philharmonic and the Barbican in London and received its world premiere staging at Opéra national de Lorraine – Nancy in 2013.The opera has received a number of new productions notably including at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 2013 (since revived in London and given a US premiere at Lincoln Center with the New York Philharmonic and IlanVolkov) and by Northern Ireland Opera. Earnest received a 2013 RPS Award for Large-Scale Composition and the recording, released on NMC, was nominated for a 2016 Grammy Award. A new production by the Nouvel Opéra Fribourgopened in Fribourg and Paris in May 2019. Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (2014-15), premiered in concert in November 2016 with Thomas Adès conducting the LA Phil New Music Group and Barbara Hannigan in the title role. Adès conducted the same cast in the European premiere, with Britten Sinfonia at London’s Barbican Centre. The world premiere staging was given at Covent Garden in February 2020 in a production by Antony McDonald to high acclaim. A new production took place in Magdeburg, Germany in 2023. 

Gerald Barry’s music has been recorded extensively on NMC, Black Box, Marco Polo, BVHaast and Discovery.



Born in Clarehill, Clarecastle, County Clare, Ireland
Receives violin and piano lessons. Pawns violin.
Studies Music at University College Dublin
Dutch Government Scholarship to study composition with Peter Schat and organ with Piet Kee at the Amsterdam Konservatorium
Danish Government Scholarship to study in Copenhagen but does not take place up

German Government Scholarship (DAAD) to study with Stockhausen at the Hochschule fur Musik, Cologne
Begins studies with Kagel in Cologne
Austrian Government Scholarship to study in Vienna with Friedrich Cerha but they rarely meet. Cerha helps him with technical aspects of his first recognised piece, Things That Gain By Being Painted for Soprano, Speaker, Cello and Piano.

'Kitty lie over across from the wall' for piano and orchestra.
Moves between Vienna and Cologne.
Lives in Cologne writing, working as a church organist and studying with Kagel
'Ø’ for two pianos and ‘___________’ for ensemble
The Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White - Theater am Marienplatz, Krefeld
Orchestral music and songs for 'Unkautgarten', Reinhild Hoffmann’s ballet for Tanz Theater Bremen

WDR records ‘Ø'

Returns to Dublin

Au Milieu and Sur les Pointes for piano
The Intelligence Park, opera in three acts
Lecturer at University College Cork
Joins publishers Oxford University Press

String Quartet No. 1
From The Intelligence Park for orchestra
Chevaux-de-frise for orchestra (BBC Proms)
Bob for chamber ensemble
Premiere of The Intelligence Park at the Almeida Festival, London.
The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit chamber opera in two acts for Channel 4 Television
Hard D for ensemble for De Volharding

Piano Quartet No. 1

German premiere of Bob by WDR Cologne

From The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit for orchestra
NMC chamber music CD BBC Music Magazine Critics’ Choice 1995 and nominated for a Classic CD Award

The Conquest of Ireland for bass solo and orchestra for the BBC Symphony Orchestra
La Jalousie Taciturne for strings

Piano Quartet No. 2
The Road for orchestra (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

CD of orchestral music released on Marco Polo
German premiere of The Conquest of Ireland at Musica Viva (Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra)
String Quartet No. 2

The Eternal Recurrence for soprano and orchestra

Festival of Barry’s music organised by RTE

Wiener Blut for ensemble at the BBC Proms

God Save the Queen for children’s choir and ensemble, written to mark the Southbank Centre’s 50th Birthday

String Quartet No. 3

Portrait concert by the Philharmonia Orchestra in London's Royal Festival Hall
Dead March nominated for the 2002 Ivors Classical Music Award

Featured Composer at the Aldeburgh and Huddersfield Festivals

German premiere of The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit (Berliner Festwochen)
L’Agitation des Observateurs, Les Tremblement des Voyeurs for ensemble

German premiere of 'Chevaux de frise' (Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra)

CD of The Intelligence Park released on NMC
Stage premiere of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant opera in Five Acts at English National Opera and released on RTE
North American premiere of The Triumph of Beauty and Deceit (Los Angeles Philharmonic)

Day for orchestra (BBC Symphony Orchestra)

German premiere of Wiener Blut (orchestral version) - Frankfurt Radio Symphony Orchestra
La Plus Forte opera in one act for soprano and orchestra (Radio France Festival Présence)

String Quartet No 4 'First Sorrow'

Portrait concerts at Miller Theatre, Columbia University, New York and the Isabelle Gardner Museum, Boston

Le Vieux Sourd for piano commissioned by Betty Freeman

Russian premiere of Chevaux de Frise with the Mariinsky Orchestra, St Petersburg
German language premiere of The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant at Theater Basel

Lisbon nominated for an RPS Music Award

American premiere of La Plus Forte (New World Symphony Orchestra, Miami)

No other people for orchestra
Joins Schott Music

Schott and Sons, Mainz for bass voice and choir

Feldman's Sixpenny Editions for ensemble
UK, Canadian and Dutch premieres of La Plus Forte'(London and Toronto Symphony Orchestras and the Netherlands Philharmonic)

CD of hitherto unreleased recordings (Things That Gain By Being Painted, Kitty lie over across from the wall, L’Agitation des Observateurs, Les Tremblement des Voyeurs, Chevaux de frise) appears in the journal Boulevard Magenta 2 (The Irish Museum of Modern Art), also containing sketches from The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant.
World premiere of The Importance of Being Earnest, Walt Disney Concert Hall, Los Angeles
Concert performance of The Importance of Being Earnest in London, Barbican Hall (national premiere, UK)

World premiere staged production of The Importance of Being Earnest in Nancy, France (Opéra national de Lorraine)


Receives RPS Award for Large-Scale Composition for The Importance of Being Earnest


Premiere of Alice’s Adventures Under Ground (2014/15) in concert with Thomas Adès conducting the LA Phil New Music Group


Canada for voice and orchestra premiered at the BBC Proms with the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra, Mirga Gražinytė-Tyla and tenor Allan Clayton



Set Descending Direction
  • Le Vieux Sourd
    April 26, 2024 | Dublin (Ireland) , Kevin Barry Recital Hall
  • Set Descending Direction