University of Hertfordshire

Miss Donnithorne's Maggot

Research output: Non-textual formDigital or Visual Products

  • Peter Richardson (Producer)
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Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationUK
PublisherSir Peter Maxwell Davies
Media of outputFilm
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jun 2012
EventDigital Arts Weeks (DAW) 2013 - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 6 May 201319 Sep 2013


The 2012 St. Magnus International Festival commissioned me to produce and direct the first film version of Sir Peter Maxwell Davies’s opera ‘Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot’ (1974). An “iconic work (Miss Donnithorne’s Maggot) is a tour de force”. The piece, set in Victorian times, tells the story of Eliza Donnithorne and her harrowing decline into madness.
The project was designed to be experienced in three ways: as a live immersive performance for the festival, as a feature film and as a Blu-Ray with publication.
Initial research investigated new techniques and technologies for combining real time visuals into live performances. During the festival performance filmed sequences are projected onto the stage and combined with real time visual effects allowing the soloist to interact with virtual characters and scenes.
For the Film and Blu-Ray version, the festival performance was filmed, edited and the projected elements were combined with visual effects sequences to give audiences a close approximation of the live experience.
This is the first time a Music Theatre work has been staged interactively with real time visual effects. Maxwell Davies credits the project as being responsible for re-energizing the work and enabling it to reach new audiences. The piece was performed again in 2013 at the Esplanade Recital Hall in Singapore as part of Digital Arts Weeks and the film has been screened in the UK and internationally.
The research has been disseminated at conferences and through journal articles. The project was cited as evidence of emerging scholarly interest in live visuals by the Real Time Visuals Network that resulted in new AHRC funding. In addition to contributing new knowledge to the discourse on film media and real time visuals, the project adds to the canon of research in scenography and musicology and has been cited by scholars in both fields.


Digital Arts Weeks International is concerned in general with the bridge between the arts and sciences in cultural context with the application of digital technology in specific. Consisting of symposia, workshops and cultural events, the DAW program offers insight into current research and innovations in art and technology as well as illustrating resulting synergies, making artists aware of impulses in technology and scientists aware of the possibilities of application of technology in the arts. Based at the Computer Systems Institute at the ETH Zurich, DAW was founded in 2005 by Prof. Jürg Gutknecht, Arthur Clay, and Dr. Stefan Müller Arisona to drive interdisciplinary initiatives involving innovations in computer science.

Research outputs

ID: 2291250