the Earl of Groan, lyric baritone
Lord Groan of Gormenghast (76th Lord in direct succession)

A melancholic intellectual. He performs his complicated rituals in a mechanical and absent-minded manner. He hardly ever notices his family and surroundings, for he is completely devoted to his only love – his books.
When alone in his huge library, he seems to awake from his torpor and lack of presence. After his books are destroyed in the fire, he becomes increasingly despondent and finally goes mad. His song is soft and lyrical, with melodies of a liturgical pattern. The more gloomy he becomes, the more the variety of his musical motifs decrease; in the end his song is completely stereotyped and formal. Yet his final aria, sung as an owl perched on the mantelpiece, is wonderfully melodic.

the Countess, dramatic soprano

Lord Sepulchrave’s wife. An enormous and mysterious woman. She exudes a disquieting combination of callousness and animal warmth. Lethargic and languid, she is at peace with herself. In contrast to her indifference to people, she cultivates a warm and tender relationship with her pets: birds alight on her gigantic body and nest in her auburn hair; a wave of white cats surges across her bed. She is Mother Earth, upon whose gargantuan body innocent life crawls and swarms.

the son, dancer, pantomime

Only son of Lord Sepulchrave and Lady Gertrude. Heir of Gormenghast.

In the first act he is born. In the second act he is a seven-year-old child and in the third he is 15. Titus is mute – and the question remains as to whether this is a congenital defect or a refusal to speak. But even as a child he takes notice of Steerpike’s every sordid deed and tries to indicate this to the others by pointing his finger. But the adults fail to understand. Only Steerpike is in the know. Thus Titus’ growing up becomes a constant and ever-intensifying battle with Steerpike’s rise to power.

the daughter, soprano

Titus’ sister, 14 years old, in the beginning. Sensitive, sulky, temperamental, tender, spontaneous, dreamy, both distrustful and gullible. And very much alone.

two coloratura sopranos

Lady Cora and Lady Clarice, the Lord’s sisters. They exhibit an absurd clumsiness and their gaunt, listless bodies are permanently intertwined in the most grotesque manner. Yet they still give off a whiff of former grandeur, of a glorious culture now rotten and inane.

Their confused thoughts are expressed by a very elaborate coloratura song, sung mostly in paral-lel: a combination of Peking opera and Queen of the Night. Steerpike seals their lips, after which they can only hum. Even when spun into a cocoon, they continue to hum as they slowly perish.


Master of the Rituals and Keeper of the Law of the Groans. A crippled and belligerent dwarf, rag-ged and filthy. He conducts the rituals with relentless fanaticism and a barking voice.


The kitchen boy, whose rise and fall is the central drama of the opera.

Rat-like and swift, tough and daring, a hungry look, sharp intelligence, cynical and totally lacking in conscience, yet not without a certain charm and cheeky humour.

His role is also one of an athletic dancer. Steerpike is a veritable ball of energy whose bizarre kinetics give full vent to his urges which in a sense are beyond his control. He sings pop, yet he has a wide range of expression.

tenor or countertenor

Court physician and family confidant.

Effeminate, elegant in an eccentric but cultivated manner, clever and charitable.

His virtuously rapid and melodic song is punctuated with impulsive coloraturas of laughter, as if his voice has suddenly gone out of control and veered right up into the upper registers. These peals of laughter have nothing to do with the subject of his conversation, they’re just part of his language.


Lord Sepulchrave’s manservant, who performs his duties with the utmost of devotion. He is a steadfast part of Gormenghast, like an old castle wall – and just as unperturbed. Haggard and gnarled like a Giacometti figure. It doesn’t seem as if such a bony face as his is capable of a normal

lyric tenor

The kitchen master, a white and pasty hulk of colossal proportions. Slimy arrogance, malicious and sharp-tongued.

His voice, however, melts like butter, tender and melodious. Despite his great size, he moves with agility and elegance.


Known as “Nanny”, the tiny old children’s nurse. She loves and cares for Fuchsia and Titus with


dancer, acrobat
voice : tape