Tao of Glass

Philip Glass & Phelim McDermott

Thu 11 July, 2019

Sat 20 July, 2019

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An exploration of life, loss and a single question:
Where does true inspiration come from?

Composer Philip Glass and performer-director Phelim McDermott (Improbable) have worked together on acclaimed opera productions in London, New York and beyond, and Tao of Glass is their most personal collaboration yet. Inspired by a dream, this world premiere marries ten meditations on life, death and Taoist wisdom with ten brand new pieces of music from Glass, presented by McDermott with an ensemble of musicians and puppeteers. Part-concert, part-performance, Tao of Glass is a storytelling tapestry, soundtracked by Glass’s mesmerising music and shot through with Improbable’s trademark theatricality.

Commissioned by Manchester International Festival, Improbable, Perth Festival, Ruhrfestspiele Recklinghausen, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival and Carolina Performing Arts – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in association with Naomi Milgrom AO. Produced by Manchester International Festival, Improbable and the Royal Exchange Theatre.



Image Credit: Tristram Kenton


Perth, Australia
Wed 19 February, 2020 -
Sun 23 February, 2020
Heath Ledger Theatre
Recklinghausen, Germany
Sun 3 May, 2020 -
Wed 6 May, 2020

Every so often your eyes will fill with tears, for there is only so much that the human heart can hold within it.

The Guardian

an exploration of the mystery of artistic creation that’s marvellously entertaining and deeply touching

The Telegraph

This was a mesmerising, unique and utterly compelling premiere, and must be seen as one of the Manchester International Festival’s greatest achievements.


Brilliant, fascinating and enchanting

The Arts Desk

It is exactly the kind of work MIF should be commissioning: big names writing about big ideas, producing work which is challenging but ultimately, universal.

Manchester Evening News

Composer – Philip Glass
Writer & Co-Director – Phelim McDermott
Co-Director – Kirsty Housley
Designer – Fly Davis
Lighting Designer – Colin Grenfell
Sound Designer – Giles Thomas
Collaborator – Ragnar Freidank
Musical Director – Chris Vatalaro
Assistant Director – Jen Tan
Puppet Designer & Puppet Maker – Lyndie Wright
Design Associate – Camille Etchart
Sound Associate – Sorcha Steele

Puppeteers – Janet Etuk, David Emmings
Performer – Phelim McDermott
Ensemble (Clarinet) – Jack McNeill
Ensemble (Violin) – Rakhi Singh
Ensemble (Piano) – Katherine Tinker
Ensemble (Percussion) – Chris Vatalaro
Puppeteer & Puppet Co-ordinator – Sarah Wright



Listening time: 34 minutes

What would you ask your hero?

Phelim McDermott, director and co-founder of Improbable, is making a stage show with Philip Glass – his long-term hero and creative inspiration. After years of following Glass from afar Phelim now has the chance to meet him, and to ask whatever he wants. The only problem is that Phelim has no idea what to ask.

In search of the perfect question, Phelim explores his dreams, dredges up memories and speaks to those who know him best, going to the very core of where ideas come from.

Including contributions from Matilda McDermott, Riddley McDermott and co-director Kirsty Housley.

Music by Philip Glass and Vicky Clarke.

Hosted by Isaiah Hull. Produced by Eliza Lomas. A Reduced Listening and Manchester International Festival production.

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