Knight Crew is the latest initiative from Glyndebourne Education placing youth and the community centre stage in a new commission from Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence Julian Philips . With Gareth Malone joining the production team at Glyndebourne to take on the role of chorus master on his first opera, BBC Two’s Gareth goes to Glyndebourne will follow the project from its early stages through to the March performances. Having led youth and community projects for Glyndebourne since 2000, Gareth returns to help find new young talent and reach teenagers who would never usually get the chance to appear in an opera.
Ever since its inception in 1986, Glyndebourne Education has made a major commitment to the company’s presentation of new works.. This has resulted in many innovative and groundbreaking works, including Misper (1997/1998), Zoë (2000), School for Lovers/Cosi Hip H’Opera (2006), as well as The Rim of The World (2009) in cooperation with seven other UK opera companies.
For Glyndebourne’s newest commission, award-winning author Nicky Singer has joined forces with director John Fulljames to adapt her novel based on the King Arthur legend for the stage. Knight Crew takes place in a contemporary urban setting, with the musical realisation of the story’s many different textures taking the form of a gritty, urban palette made up of saxophones, brass, electric keyboard, double bass and percussion. The six protagonists, performed by professional singers, will be joined by 60 young performers, as well as a ‘Mother’s Chorus’ formed of local adults. In the pit, the ensemble will be a combination of professional and youth players.
For almost a quarter of a century Glyndebourne’s education department has been at the heart of the Festival’s commitment to reaching and integrating wider audiences. Knight Crew takes that work a step further, both in its ambition to create more learning and participatory opportunities for young people, and in the breadth of the Knight Crew’s recruitment programme. Working with 14-18 year olds in Ringmer and Crawley, Sussex, Glyndebourne’s Round Table Project supports the delivery of the new work-related qualification, the Creative and Media Diploma, an integrated education initiative that explores creative and vocational learning and participation. Through the Round Table Glyndebourne has initiated a programme of 20 skills Workshops to provide support leading up to Knight Crew auditions. The workshops have reached more than 450 young people – largely from rural and urban schools and communities – with little previous experience of similar initiatives, who will join members of Glyndebourne’s own Youth Opera Group at the final auditions.
Nicky Singer’s previous novel Feather Boy won the overall Blue Peter ‘Book of the Year’ Award, and was subsequently published in 28 countries and adapted for television, winning a BAFTA for Best Children’s Drama. Its 2006 incarnation as a musical at the National Theatre is currently being reworked for the West End in collaboration with lyricist Don Black and composer Debbie Wiseman. For Knight Crew, Singer is collaborating with Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence Julian Philips whose opera Varjak Paw, with the Opera Group was premiered at the Linbury Studio (ROH) in 2008, and Wild Cat was premiered at The Millennium Centre in Cardiff, while Dolffin was commissioned by Welsh National Opera for a national tour. Philips’ extensive work for dance includes The Snow Queen (2007) for English National Ballet, which was also featured in their 2009 tour.
Singer and Philips will be joined by director John Fulljames, Artistic Director of The Opera Group—whose recent productions include Judith Weir’s Blond, Eckbertand Shostakovich’s The Nose at the Royal Opera House, as well as The Young Vic’s Tobias and the Angel — and designer Es Devlin, who’s opera designs include Hansel and Gretel (Scottish Opera Go Round) and Fidelio (English Touring Opera). Es has also designed tours for Kanye West, Lady Gaga, Mika and Muse.
Like all Glyndebourne productions, all departments at Glyndebourne are involved with Knight Crew, bringing the same productions standards to bear as are expected for the Festival. Knight Crew may be Glyndebourne’s biggest education project so far, but every year over 5000 young people take part in one of Glyndebourne Education’s many on-going projects in locations from Plymouth to Stoke, Brighton to Norwich. Additionally, over 2500 people enjoy performance based talks and events led by experts in the field. As well as working with schools and colleges, Glyndebourne Education runs numerous community initiatives including projects for people with dementia and their carers, and its relationship with HMP Lewes, which began with Fidelio in the 1950s, continues to this day.