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A Contemporary Chamber Opera

Featuring soprano, plastic trumpet and vinyl DJ

A thought provoking history of plastic

Now is the time to look back and ask, where are we going?

'...Dramatic compelling and challenging...Brilliantly conceived...a remarkable cautionary take

    Andrew Burn - Former Head of Projects, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra

A Production for Theatre

Karen Wimhurst and MoDiP present Synthetica,  an eclectic chamber opera


Synthetica is the culmination of a programme of research, education and performance around plastics.  Created by composer Karen Wimhurst as part of her residency with the Museum of Design in Plastics,  the work was premiered at The Lighthouse Theatre Poole in Autumn  2018, directed by Katharine Piercey


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Project Background

In the 1940’s Beautiful House magazine, a map of Synthetica was printed to educate the public about the Synthetic World we were entering.  In the light of the Pacific Garbage Patch, we come to this with a sense of irony!  However, plastics were born in a fervour of excitement.  The end of poverty was anticipated alongside a cessation of exploitation of the natural world (the slaughter of elephants for ivory billiard balls was a major concern). 

Synthetica is a fractured and poetic sung narrative telling a story full of heady discoveries by industrial chemists, consumer crazes fuelled by the dawn of advertising, the facilitation of our easy living, plastics as a massive aid in the face of poverty and the face of environmental catastrophe…....  the light and the dark.   Given these polarities, where are we heading?  The question of plastics touches upon our place in the natural world, our evolution in the digital age and well beyond.  


The Synthetica team can offer a series of educational workshops that can accompany this work such as:

  • A Composition Workshop, led by Karen Wimhurst exploring the history of plastics or topical plastics issues

  • Creating an Audio Soundscape with plastics, led by sound designer Ed Bersey and Karen Wimhurst

  • Vinyl Music Mixing and Beat Matching with DJ Ole Rudd

  • Writing for Trumpet led by Elaine Close (ex BBC Philharmonic)



This music-theatre work, composed by Karen Wimhurst, and directed by Katharine Piercey, is dramatic, compelling, thought provoking and challenging, as it explored the light and dark facets of the history of plastics from the optimism following its invention in the 1940s, to the contemporary situation, when the plastics clogging the oceans presage a catastrophic environmental disaster.

The work is brilliantly conceived for a soprano soloist, a trumpet player, and DJ mixing tracks live in a strong and imaginative score. The composer has also created her own most effective libretto which falls into nine sections, and the piece was staged with excellent set and costumes designed by Paige Gregory.

The first performance of this powerful, cautionary tale was given in The Lighthouse, Poole’s, studio space, to an almost capacity and enthusiastic audience.

Andrew Burn

Formerly Head of Education & Ensembles, subsequently Head of Projects, Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra.

A piece that felt like a blueprint for what our public discourse should look like: patient, full of uncertainty and deliberation, willing to immerse itself in all possible perspectives.

Jack Chuter

ATTN  Magazine Editor

The Lighthouse’s Sherling studio was the venue for the premiere of Shaftesbury composer Karen Wimhurst’s Synthetica. Karen, who is deeply committed to environmental concerns and the wellbeing of the natural world, describes the background to her new work in the programme notes, beginning with a reference to a 1940s copy of House Beautiful magazine, which had a map of “Synthetica “ printed to educate the public about the synthetic world we were entering.

“In the light of the Pacific Garbage Patch, we come to this with a sense of irony,” says Karen. “However, plastics were born in a fervour of excitement. The end of poverty was anticipated alongside a cessation of exploitation of the natural world (the slaughter of elephants for ivory billiard balls was a major concern

The work is in ten movements, following the Singer on her journey exploring a history of people and plastic –

Through a powerful libretto and Wimhurst’s ethereal and sometimes shocking music that creates colours and explosions in the listeners mind, the composer challenges our post-Blue Planet II convictions – plastic good, plastic bad?

It is not a conclusion: it is a provocation – Synthetica is an artist’s response to the greatest environmental challenge facing the planet.

Fanny Charles

Fine Times Recorder

We were extremely pleased to host Synthetica... and to see the show is now attracting more bookings. It was a fantastic addition to our programme… innovative, thought provoking, a great score and a virtuosic cast. Moreover, it’s billing in the Plastics and Rubber UK Journal proves it can reach places other operas can’t go!

Bill Bankes Jones

Artistic Director, Tête à Tête, London, 2019

'Of all the operas I went to see at Tête à Tête's2019, Synthetica was my favourite.  It was cutting edge, provocative, with a truly exciting score and great live performances from the singer, Brittany Soriano and trumpet virtuoso, Elaine Close.  It stood out as an opera for our times and deserves a wide audience.'  

Frances Lynch

Artistic Director, Electric Voice Theatre

’The thematic subject of the production, in particular, is ripe for additional educational and participatory activity; whether that’s the evolution of plastic and the differentiation between ‘good plastic’ and the highly publicised single use plastic’’.

Grant Brisland

Director, Newbury Corn Exchange

Contact Us

Contact Details

Karen Wimhurst


Direct Line:   ‭01747 850978‬

Mobile:         07717 223180‬



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