Hastings Spring

Project summary

Hastings Spring was the first full-scale community opera undertaken by Glyndebourne education. It was also the first Jonathan Dove opera commissioned by Glyndebourne. The opera itself took place on Hastings Pier in 1990.

The production team included director Tim Hopkins, designer Nigel Lowery and movement director Melly Still. Among the cast was Phelim McDermott.

Act I

Michael Brady, a preventer (coast guard) is on the lookout for smugglers. He is taunted by children who live on the beach, and surprised by Shimmering, who emerges from the sea and intrigues the women of Hastings. 

Harriet Martineau, an author, is visiting Hastings, and observes a smuggling operation.

The smugglers bribe Michael Brady to keep quiet. Michael returns home, where his wife, Gabriella, and children await him. Other preventers call by, investigating the last night’s smuggling. Michael Brady keeps his silence.

Shimmering is introduced to a party of visiting aristocrats. Preventers arrest him on suspicion of being a smuggler.

Gabriella Brady is pursued by local tradespeople to whom she owes money. Harriet Martineau offers to help, but Gabriella refuses.

Shimmering is in prison, where he tells his fellow prisoners a story. they are possessed. Meanwhile, smuggled goods arrive in London.

Michael Brady is watching again. Preventers bust a smuggling operation. The smugglers believe that Brady has betrayed them and swear revenge.

A building arrives in Hastings by boat.

Act II

As people go about their business and tourists start to fill the town, James Burton, an architect, arrives. He announces that he is going to build a new town, St. Leonard’s-on-Sea. He hires builders and makes Michael Brady his foreman.

Agricultural workers riot and are sent to prison.

As building progresses under Michael Brady’s supervision, smugglers come looking for revenge. James Burton scares them away.

The council tries to evict people from the beach. They resist but end up in prison.

The Council includes some of the smugglers. They still want revenge on Michael Brady, so they trick James Burton into sacking him.

Michael Brady is now pursued by smugglers seeking revenge and preventers who still think he took bribes. Harriet and Gabriella try to rescue him, but fail. Michael Brady knows that if the preventers catch him, his prison sentence will be short, but the smugglers will catch him on his release. Inspired by Shimmering he invents a list of fantastic crimes, and is sentenced to be transported to Van Diemen’s Land (now Tasmania).

As Harriet and Gabriella pack their bags to leave Hastings, James Burton opens the St Leonard’s Hotel and Shimmering encourages a gaol break.

'...I was conducting rehearsals all over town, cycling frantically from one to another, and then, after the rehearsals, writing the end of the opera alone in the ballroom at the end of the pier.’

-Jonathan Dove, Composer

Cast List

Michael Brady - Geoffrey Dolton
Shimmering - Phelim McDermott
Harriet Martineau - Anne Williams-King
Gabriella Brady - Yvonne Howard
James Burton - Andrew Gallacher


Creative Team

Composer/Musical Director - Jonathan Dove
Librettist - Nicholas Ridout
Director - Tim Hopkins
Associate Director - Melly Still