Inside Wagner’s Head

Simon Callow to perform in a new one man show inspired by the life of Richard Wagner

Friday 6 – Sunday 29 September 2013

Simon Callow, the eminent writer, director and actor, will write and star in a new one-man show at the Royal Opera House this September. Inside Wagner’s Head sees Callow portraying the composer Richard Wagner in the style of his previous one man shows based on the lives of Charles Dickens and William Shakespeare. Specially commissioned for this year’s Deloitte Ignite contemporary arts festival curated by Stephen Fry and The Royal Opera, this unique and intimate show is performed in the Linbury Studio Theatre.

Inside Wagner’s Head promises to be as controversial as the man himself. There are many truths and myths surrounding the composer Richard Wagner. In this one-man show, Olivier award winning actor Simon Callow tries to show what Wagner was actually like, and what it was like to be around him. Wagner was a mass of contradictions: a sublime visionary and a petty anti-Semite, a political radical but dependent on dukes and princes, irritating yet charismatic to the point of commanding absolute devotion.

Callow draws on the composer’s own prolific writing especially his racy, deeply unreliable autobiography, as well as the literally hundreds of books to reveal him in his many guises: the political revolutionary, the lover, the theatrical and musical innovator, the conductor, the actor, the theorist, the philosopher, the cadger, the creator of one of the greatest opera houses ever built. It was a life like none other. Using music, light, sound, and a torrent of language, Callow summons up Wagner inBow Street.

Simon Callow commented:

“To know Wagner is to become obsessed by him. I’ve tried to show how utterly original the man was. How shocking, how funny, how profound, how destructive. He is one of the absolute Titans of Western Art who often behaved disgracefully. I hope the audience will be appalled, amused and finally moved by the man. I certainly have been.”   

Inside Wagner’s Head is directed by Simon Stokes, currently Artistic Director of the Theatre Royal Plymouth with designs by award winning theatre and opera designer Robin Don, lighting design by Rick Fisher and sound design by Adrienne Quartly.

Contemporary arts festival Deloitte Ignite returns for its sixth year curated for the first time by Stephen Fry, actor, writer, comedian, television presenter and lifelong Wagner fan, alongside The Royal Opera.  Deloitte Ignite this year explores the work and creativity of Verdi and Wagner celebrating the 200th anniversaries of their birth with a range of events from a unique installation in Covent Garden Piazza by Es Devlin, to this one-man show by Simon Callow, to live radio broadcasts, performances and choral work.


Inside Wagner’s Head

written by and starring Simon Callow

Director Simon Stokes

Designer Robin Don

Lighting design Rick Fisher

Sound design Adrienne Quartly

Linbury Studio Theatre

Friday 6 – Sunday 29 September 2013

6, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 16, 17, 19, 20, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27 September at 7.45pm

7, 14, 18, 21, 28 September at 2.30pm and 7.45pm

(Previews 3, 5 September at 7.45pm, 4 September at 2.30pm and 7.45pm)

Press night Friday 6 September at 7.45pm

Tickets £25, £21.50, £15 students, £7 standing.

Preview tickets £20, £17.50, £12.50 students, £7 standing.

Box office 020 7304 4000 /

Inside Wagner’s Head is commissioned by the Royal Opera House as part of Deloitte Ignite 2013 and co-produced by the Royal Opera House and Theatre Royal Plymouth

Full details of all events and booking information will be available in due course from


About Simon Callow:

Simon Callow was born in South London in 1949. He lived in Northern Rhodesia (now Zambia) for three years; when he returned to England he became a pupil at the London Oratory Grammar School, of which he eventually became Head Boy. In 1967, after leaving school he went to work in the Box Office of Sir Laurence Olivier’s Old Vic Theatre. In 1968 he went to Queen’s University in Belfast, but after nine months he ran away to become an actor. In the year before he went to train at the Drama Centre, he worked in the box offices, first of the Mermaid Theatre, then of the RSC at the Aldwych Theatre. He left the Drama Centre in 1973 to take his first job, playing the front end of a horse in Büchner’s Woyzeck at the Edinburgh Festival. His first West End appearance was in 1975 opposite Harry Secombe in The Plumber’s Progress; later that year, he worked for Gay Sweatshop. He then joined Joint Stock Theatre Company for two years, played Titus Andronicus at the Bristol Old Vic, Arturo Ui at the Half Moon Theatre and Eddie in Mary Barnes at the Royal Court, before joining the National Theatre to create the part of Mozart in Amadeus and perform all of Shakespeare’s Sonnets. He has since worked at the Royal Court Theatre, the National Theatre, the Bush Theatre and the Southwark Playhouse. In the 1988, he played Faust in both parts of Goethe’s play at the Lyric Hammersmith; in 1997, he acted in The Importance of Being Oscar, following this in 2000 with The Mystery of Charles Dickens, which he played for four years in Britain, Ireland, America (New York and Chicago) and Australia (Sydney and Melbourne); in 2005 he acted in The Holy Terror by Simon Gray. He has appeared in The Woman in White and, for the RSC, Merry Wives: The Musical. He played Pozzo in Waiting for Godot with Ian McKellen, Ronald Pickup and Patrick Stewart at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. He played two unknown one-man plays by Charles Dickens, Dr Marigold and Mr Chops at Riverside Studios in 2010 and played his one-man show about Shakespeare, The Man from Stratford, across the British Isles and in Italy. He played Toby Belch in the spring of 2011 at the National Theatre and has just done Being Shakespeare, a revised version of The Man from Stratford, in the West End, in Chicago and at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. His films include AmadeusA Room with A ViewFour Weddings and a FuneralThunderpantsThe Phantom of the OperaActs of Godfrey and Late Bloomers. Recent TV credits include Doctor WhoLewisThis is JinseyPop Star to Opera StarJamie’s Dream School and the acclaimed Uptown Downstairs Abbey for Red Nose Day 2011. He has directed over 30 plays, musicals and operas, including the original West End production of Shirley Valentine, the premiere of Single Spies at the National Theatre, Les Enfants du Paradis at the RSC, Carmen Jones at the Old Vic, Die Fledermaus for Scottish Opera, Jus’Like That at the Garrick and, most recently, The Magic Flute at Holland Park Opera, with designs by Tom Phillips. He directed the film of The Ballad of the Sad Café, starring Vanessa Redgrave, Keith Carradine and Rod Steiger in 1990.

He has also written 13 books, including Being an ActorShooting the Actor, and Love is Where It Falls, as well as biographies of Oscar Wilde, Charles Laughton and the first two volumes of a life of Orson Welles; Dickens’s Christmas has just been reissued. His most recent books are My Life in Pieces, which won the Sheridan Morley prize for Best Theatrical Biography 2011, and Charles Dickens and the Great Theatre of the World, published in 2012.

He was appointed CBE in 1999 and is an honorary doctor of Queen’s University Belfast, Birmingham University and the Open University, and a fellow of the University of the Arts London.


 Royal Opera House

The Deloitte partnership with the Royal Opera House brings together both organisations in their appetite for innovation and commitment to widening access to the arts. This relationship was initially for five years and has been extended for a further five years allowing the Royal Opera House to continue to stage a broad range of ground-breaking work each year with a new vision from the chosen curator.  Deloitte Ignite builds upon the continuing projects that the Royal Opera House has developed to engage and stimulate new audiences and communities across the UK including its innovative contemporary programme in the Linbury Studio Theatre, free BP Big Screens of opera and ballet each summer, family performances, cinema screenings, schools matinees, reduced ticket pricing on main stage performances and free daytime events.



With some 13,000 people across the UK and Switzerland, Deloitte is renowned for its innovation, collaboration, industry expertise, and outstanding quality of client service.  Deloitte’s depth of talent across many disciplines allows it to deliver a total solution to clients of all sizes through its four business divisions: Audit, Tax, Consulting and Corporate Finance.  This collaboration between Deloitte and the Royal Opera House brings together both organisations’ appetite for innovation, desire to challenge the preconceptions of the audience and engage with young professionals. Deloitte Ignite is the showpiece of the sponsorship and provides a platform to stage a range of pioneering performances to reach a more diverse audience.