If someone you knew declared that life had no meaning, how would you convince them it does?
That’s the question a group of teenagers ask themselves in Nothing, a compelling new youth opera that premieres at Glyndebourne this February.
They decide that each of the group must give up an object that means something to them. This starts with toys and clothes, but things quickly escalate as the classmates go to ever more extreme lengths to try to persuade their friend there are things worth caring about.
In Nothing members of Glyndebourne Youth Opera aged 14-19 perform alongside professional singers. It is the latest in a line of pioneering youth operas that have premiered on the main stage at Glyndebourne.
The opera has been adapted from Danish author Janne Teller’s award-winning novel by composer David Bruce and librettist Glyn Maxwell. Their popular adaptation of Philip Pullman’s The Firework Maker’s Daughter wowed audiences in the UK and New York.
We recommend this production for those aged 12 and over.
Nothing is a co-commission between Glyndebourne Productions Limited and the Royal Opera House, made possible with the help of MariaMarina Foundation, Arts Council England, The Chalk Cliff Trust, The Bernard Sunley Charitable Foundation, The Charles Peel Charitable Trust, The Eranda Foundation, The Helen Wade Charitable Trust, The D’Oyly Carte Charitable Trust, Gisela Graham Foundation, RVW Trust and investment from Glyndebourne’s New Generation Programme.
Cast and creative team
Composer David Bruce
Librettist Glyn Maxwell
Conductor Sîan Edwards
Director Bijan Sheibani
Designer Giles Cadle
Lighting designer Paule Constable
Movement director Aline David
Assistant director Lucy Bradley
Assistant conductor Lee Reynolds
Music preparation Matthew Fletcher, Ashley Beauchamp
Pierre Stuart Jackson
Agnes Robyn Allegra Parton
Ursula Marta Fontanals-Simmons
Johan James Hall
Karl Tristan Hambleton
On the first day back at school one September, a boy called Pierre walks out of the class, climbs a plum tree, and declares that ‘nothing matters’. His classmates try without success to bring him down from the tree. Desperate to prove him wrong, they give up their childhood possessions to a bonfire, ‘a Pile of Meaning’, so their tears will prove things matter.
When this makes no impression on Pierre, they decide to force one another to give up whatever is most important to each of them. This starts with toys and clothes, but soon escalates monstrously: one girl’s hair – the national flag – the corpse of a pet – a figure of Jesus – until finally, with Pierre still claiming life is pointless – the children give up body and soul in a terrible spiral of sacrifice.
Finally Pierre comes to see the ‘Pile of Meaning’. He climbs it, crying out that life is beautiful – because it means nothing. In rage and regret the children set upon him. He is never seen again. Years later at Christmas, the children, now adults from all walks of life, gather by the plum tree to hang purple baubles on its branches, in recognition that whatever it was they went through together, the life and death of Pierre meant something, and cannot be forgotten.
Nothing is a story of lost childhood, the getting of wisdom, and the madness of crowds. The children are forced to confront the darkest answer to the question of existence, yet somehow find love and humanity in their responses. They absorb the horror of this communal experience, and move on through life, sadder and wiser, ever searching for truth and meaning.
Dates and times
Date Start Interval Finish Wednesday 24 February 10:50am 12.10pm 1.20pm Thursday 25 February 6.50pm 8.10pm 9.20pm Friday 26 February 6.50pm 8.10pm 9.20pm Sat 27 February 6.50pm 8.10pm 9.20pm
Special events key
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