Z Ward, now curated by the National Trust, is an old building which formerly housed the criminally insane. This may initially appear to be the most inappropriate venue for staging an opera but when that opera is a setting of Edgar Allan Poe’s creepy short story, The Tell-Tale Heart, it is ideal. The claustrophobic set comprises a rather small and sparse cell-like structure constructed in a whitewashed brick and concrete hallway. This setup grants the audience a voyeuristic view of Poe’s unnamed, trapped narrator/murderer as he vents his inner paranoia and rage. Dennis Vaughan, who conducts the piece, has contained his eloquent 13-piece band in two catacomb-like former cells set one on top of the other, adding to a well-honed sense of claustrophobia. (It should be remembered that Poe himself suffered from this fear.)

The Tell-Tale Heart The Tell-Tale Heart

Premiered in 2005, Vaughan’s piece, a dramatic monologue rather than opera per se, extends Poe’s four or five-page macabre tale into an hour of riveting theatre. The work...