In February 2016 Glyndebourne will stage the world premiere of a new opera based on an award-winning novel for young adults that explores the meaning of life.
Nothing, often described as a modern day Lord of the Flies, was written by Danish author Janne Teller. It tells the haunting story of a group of teenagers trying to convince their classmate that life has meaning. Things quickly escalate as the children go to ever more extreme lengths to try to persuade their friend that there are things worth caring about.
The book has been adapted as an opera by composer David Bruce and librettist Glyn Maxwell, the team behind the Olivier Award-nominated The Firework Maker’s Daughter.
Nothing composer, David Bruce, said: “Nothing deals with the most fundamental question of all – what is the point of existence? Just from the synopsis I knew it was fruitful operatic territory. What I particularly admire in the book is that the question of whether there is any ‘meaning’ (and if so, what it is) remains unanswered. It is in such ambiguities that music can flourish, saying so much more than words alone could ever say, and allowing thoughts, emotions and ideas to blossom in the mind of the listener.”
Co-commissioned and co-produced by Glyndebourne and the Royal Opera House, Nothing will have its world premiere on the main stage at Glyndebourne next February. 50 members of Glyndebourne Youth Opera aged 14-19 will perform in the production alongside a small number of professional opera singers.
Glyndebourne has assembled a top-flight creative team to work with the teenage participants. The production will be directed by Bijan Sheibani, whose work for the National Theatre includes A Taste of Honey and Emil and the Detectives. He will be supported by regular collaborators, including designer Giles Cadle, who won an Olivier Award for his work on the stage adaptation of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials.
Director Bijan Sheibani said: “Nothing is a very rich novel that reminded me of the huge, exciting, difficult journey teenagers go on, as they move from childhood into adulthood. Whilst the basic story is simple, Nothing spins a web of emotional conflicts, ethical dilemmas, and fascinating philosophical ideas. I am looking forward to exploring all of that with a cast of both young and professional performers in my first experience of working at Glyndebourne.’
The score for Nothing mixes the chants, laughter and cruelty of the school playground with more soul-searching moments, as well as moments of wild energy as the class’s ‘group think’ mentality causes their moral compass to begin to go astray.
Sian Edwards returns to Glyndebourne to conduct musicians from the Southbank Sinfonia. The London-based orchestra will mentor 20 talented young instrumentalists performing alongside them in the orchestra pit.
Nothing is the first project to take place in the 30th anniversary year of Glyndebourne’s education programme and will build on the organisation’s pioneering work in commissioning and producing participatory opera. Since 1990 these projects have been a regular part of Glyndebourne’s work to promote access to opera. The last project of this kind, 2013’s Imago, won the Royal Philharmonic Society (RPS) Award for Learning and Participation.
Nothing will be performed on the main stage at Glyndebourne on 25, 26 and 27 February 2016. Tickets are on sale now at glyndebourne.com.