Hazlewood has been involved in music theatre since he first began making music as a child. He has been music director for many critically acclaimed opera and music theatre shows. His production of ‘Carmen’ for Wilton’s Music Hall in London was described as ‘The Carmen by which all others should be measured’ (Observer). The film version of Carmen made in South Africa and sung in Xhosa won best film at the Berlin film awards in 2005.
Between 1995 and 2003 Hazlewood was Music Director of Broomhill Opera and Wilton’s Music Hall in London; for them he conducted amongst others Britten’s The Turn of the Screw(director Elijah Moshinsky), Puccini’s Il Trittico (director Simon Callow), The Beggar’s Opera (director Jonathan Miller) and Kurt Weill’s The Silverlake in a new translation by Rory Bremner.
In 1999, Hazlewood and Mark Dornford-May were invited to create a new opera company in Cape Town. After auditioning in the townships and villages of South Africa, the mostly black lyric-theatre company DDK (Dimpho Di Kopane – Sotho for “combined talents”) was formed. Of the 40 members, only three had professional training and five members died of AIDS in the company’s first year. In January 2001, the company’s debut of Bizet’s Carmen opened to damning South African reviews, with one newspaper claiming it was preposterous for black South Africans to perform western opera but later came to London where it was deemed ‘The Carmen by which all other should be measured’ The Observer. The Mysteries, for which Hazlewood devised the score which opened in London in 2003, was a sell-out and inspired a leader in the Times. The first leader on the arts in forty years.
Hazlewood was music director and conductor for the company’s film version of Carmen set in a township in South Africa U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha which won the ‘Golden Bear’ award for Best Film at the 2005 Berlin International Film Festival. Their subsequent film Son of Man featured a score created by Hazlewood in collaboration with the company.
Hazlewood was Music Director of DDK from 2000 to 2007. With the company he also conceived the music for the shows, Ibali Loo Tsotsi (The Beggar’s Opera); and The Snow Queen, which premiered in New York in 2004.
In 2009, Hazlewood conducted Kurt Weill’s musical drama Lost in the Stars set in apartheid South Africa at the South Bank Centre.
Hazlewood toured Bristol, London, New York and Krakow with Adrian Utley and Will Gregory’s new live score to the silent movie classic The Passion of Joan of Arc in 2011/12. In 2013 the project will visit Amsterdam, Sydney, Copenhagen and Lisbon.
In 2014, Hazlewood scored the radical reworking of the John Gay’s the Beggars Opera with the Kneehigh Theatre Company, called ‘Dead Dog in a Suitcase (and other love songs). This co-production with the Liverpool Everyman and Playhouse was written by Carl Grose and directed by Mike Shepherd. The show toured the UK and internationally in 2015/16 and was listed in the 10 ten shows of 2015 by the Guardian newspaper.
It was Charles Hazlewood’s score that stole the honours. There are not many composers cool enough to convincingly connect traditional folk ballads with grime, ska and dubstep. But miraculously, Hazlewood pulled it off.Alfred Hickling’s top 10 theatre of 2014, The Guardian
A riot… Would I go and see this again? Like a shot.
The Times ****
Fiendishly clever…a constant barrage of visual, theatrical and musical surprises
The Stage *****
The Brecht-Weill Ballad of Mack the Knife will now seem rather passe after being faced with the brazen cheek of Hazlewood’s extraordinary score.
The Stage *****
Swapping 18th-century street ballads for ska and dubstep, Kneehigh’s reworking of The Beggar’s Opera is bright, bold and curiously timeless. John Gay invented the jukebox musical. Charles Hazlewood creates a superior form of jukebox. Hazlewood has the ability to create through-composed sequences of genuine thematic development, but also an ear wide enough to suggest that bawdy 18th-century airs and catches share a direct bloodline with ska, grime and dubstep.
The Guardian ****