Knight Crew

About Knight Crew

In March 2010 Glyndebourne staged Knight Crew on the main stage. Knight Crew placed young people and the community centre stage in four performances of a new commission from Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence, Julian Philips.

With a libretto by award-winning author Nicky Singer, it was directed by John Fulljames and conducted by Nicholas Collon. The budget for this significant new commission was £400,000 – all of which was raised from Arts Council England, individual support and trusts and foundations. The four performances were enthusiastically received by capacity audiences at Glyndebourne and by the press.

One of the largest Glyndebourne education projects, Knight Crew was a large-scale community opera commissioned specifically for the main stage, involving every department at Glyndebourne. Knight Crew is an urban story based on the King Arthur legend, brought to the stage by a collaboration involving Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence, Julian Philips; librettist and award-winning author Nicky Singer; and director John Fulljames.

Under the umbrella title of the Round Table Project, this programme of participatory and work-related learning gave more young people than ever before the opportunity to take part in a Glyndebourne production. Glyndebourne has initiated a programme of 20 skills workshops to provide support leading up to the auditions. The workshops reached more than 450 young people—largely from rural and urban schools and communities—with little previous experience of similar initiatives, who joined members of Glyndebourne’s own Youth Opera at the final auditions. Additionally, the project supported supports the delivery of the new work-related qualification, the Creative and Media Diploma. This integrated education initiative explores creative and vocational learning and participation and is available to 14-18 year olds in Ringmer and Crawley. As well as ensuring the broadest number of local young people could participate, Knight Crew also involved parents, carers and other members of the local community in a ‘Mothers’ Chorus’.

See a gallery of production photography

Read about the story of the Knight Crew project

Making Knight Crew

Find out more about the process Glyndebourne goes through when commissioning and casting a new opera for young people like Knight Crew . Featuring interviews with Glyndebourne’s General Director David Pickard and Glyndebourne’s Head of Education Katie Tearle.

The Story

Knight Crew is a retelling of the King Arthur legend. Told through the eyes of Knight Crew gang members Art, Quin, Mordec, Lance and Elaine, we see the story unfold in a modern inner-city estate.

After a gang feud claims its first life, violence escalates between the Knight Crew and a rival gang, The Saxons. With only the prophecies of the strange bag lady to guide him, Art tries to steer the Knight Crew away from the world they have become embroiled in. The group quickly becomes divided and, eventually, the new world Art is trying to create is tested from within as well as being threatened from the outside.

Creative and production team

Composer: Julian Philips
Librettist: Nicky Singer
Director: John Fulljames
Conductor: Nicholas Collon
Designer: Es Devlin
Lighting designer: Bruno Poet
Movement director: Ben Wright
Projection designer: Finn Ross

Gareth Malone and Glyndebourne

Gareth Malone, who has worked with Glyndebourne Education since 2000, returned to work on Knight Crew as Chorus Master, helping to find new talent and reach teenagers who would never normally get the chance to appear in an opera. Gareth’s journey, from auditioning the young chorus through to the final performances at Glyndebourne, was filmed by the BBC as a three-part documentary – Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne – which was first broadcast on BBC2 in June 2010.

Press reaction

“This was a well-told tale that really packed a punch, and could not have hoped for a more gripping or committed performance. The legendary Glyndebourne production values are applied as assiduously to these youth operas as to anything in the Festival season, and they really pay off.”

- Classical Music magazine

“I wouldn’t have missed it for anything: profoundly uplifting and encouraging.”

- The Stage

“One might think that the campaign to widen opera’s audience has been terminally hijacked by showbiz. But that would be to discount the heroic work done by opera-company education departments up and down the country, and above all their brand-leaders at Glyndebourne.”

- The Independent

Press reviews and features

Links to online reviews and articles about Knight Crew:

Read review on the Gramophone website

Read review on The Guardian website

Read review on The Independent website

Read feature on The Times website