Glyndebourne Youth Opera’s sense of Belonging

Glyndebourne is to premiere a new opera composed by Lewis Murphy. Belongings, Murphy’s first full-length work, is the culmination of his time on the Young Composer-in-Residence scheme, which offers an emerging composer under the age of 30 the chance to spend three years immersed in the company and is part of its long-standing commitment to supporting and developing young artists.

Glyndebourne Youth Opera rehearsals for Belongings at Burgess Hill High School, East Sussex, UK.

Glyndebourne Youth Opera rehearsals for Belongings at Burgess Hill High School, East Sussex, UK.

Belongings will be performed by a 65-strong cast aged between nine and 19 and explores the experiences of young people forced by war to flee their homes. The young cast will be accompanied by three professional opera singers including the versatile British bass-baritone Rodney Earl Clarke, mezzo-soprano Leslie Davis and soprano Nardus Williams, the first singer to win the Trinity Laban Gold Medal.The libretto was written by rising star Laura Attridge.

Lucy Perry, Glyndebourne’s head of education, said: “Glyndebourne Youth Opera marks its 20th anniversary in 2017 and Belongings continues our commitment to commissioning challenging new work with significant contemporary relevance. It is essential for Glyndebourne to provide the space for young people to engage with the world around them.”

The story for Belongings was developed by a creative team who travelled to Sarteano, Italy, to meet people in refugee communities as part of a visit organised by The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT), a project to connect youths across Europe.

There they worked with around 70 young men from different backgrounds including Nigerian, Gambian, Sudanese and Bengali, to create pieces of ‘image theatre’ that influenced the upcoming production.

Director Lucy Bradley said: ‘‘Working to create a new opera always feels hugely exciting, but with Belongings there is an additional sense of responsibility because of its very sensitive and hugely relevant subject matter. These sessions were incredibly beneficial as an opportunity to engage directly with individuals who had undertaken difficult journeys to leave home and to travel across Europe to Italy.”

Belongings juxtaposes the story of a group of WWII evacuees, travelling from London to Lewes to escape the Blitz, with a present-day tale of a group of refugee children who have fled various war-torn locations.

Belongings explores the themes of displacement and connection,” said Murphy, “both of which feel particularly current today. The development of the opera has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a thoroughly eye-opening experience for myself and the rest of the creative team.”

Sebastian F Schwarz, general director of Glyndebourne, added: “Glyndebourne has an illustrious track record of creating new works. It is a privilege and responsibility for us to identify the stories and events of our time that hold the potential to form and transform society, and to nurture and support artists, so that our time is documented with and filtered through operatic perspectives as richly as former centuries.”

Suitable for adults and young people aged 9 and above, Belongings is supported by The Chalk Cliff Trust through investment from Glyndebourne’s New Generation Programme which invests significantly in developing new audiences and artists of the future. Tickets cost £5.

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