New opera on forced migration to premiere at Glyndebourne in November

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A topical new youth opera exploring the experiences of young people forced by war to flee their homes has its world premiere at Glyndebourne on 11 November.

Belongings has been composed by Lewis Murphy, Glyndebourne’s Young Composer-in-Residence, with a libretto by Laura Attridge.

It juxtaposes the story of a group of WWII evacuees, travelling from London to Lewes to escape the Blitz, with a present day tale of a group of refugee children who have fled various war-torn locations.

Composer Lewis Murphy said: ‘Belongings explores the themes of displacement and connection, both of which feel particularly current today. The development of the opera has been, and I’m sure will continue to be, a thoroughly eye-opening experience for myself and the rest of the creative team.’

Sebastian F. Schwarz, General Director of Glyndebourne, said: ‘Glyndebourne has an illustrious track record of creating new works. It is a privilege and responsibility for us to identify the stories and events of our time that hold the potential to form and transform society, and to nurture and support artists, so that our time is documented with and filtered through operatic perspectives as richly as former centuries.’

Earlier this year the creative team of Belongings travelled to Sarteano, Italy to meet young people in refugee communities as part of a visit organised by The Complete Freedom of Truth (TCFT), a project to connect young people across Europe.

The team had the opportunity to work with around 70 young men from a variety of backgrounds including Nigerian, Gambian, Sudanese and Bengali to create pieces of ‘image theatre’ that will feed directly into the upcoming production.

Director Lucy Bradley said: ‘‘Working to create a new opera always feels hugely exciting, but with Belongings there is an additional sense of responsibility because of its very sensitive and hugely relevant subject matter. These sessions were incredibly beneficial as an opportunity to engage directly with individuals who had undertaken difficult journeys to leave home and to travel across Europe to Italy.’

Belongings will be performed by 65 members of Glyndebourne Youth Opera.

Lucy Perry, Glyndebourne’s Head of Education said: ‘Glyndebourne Youth Opera marks its 20th anniversary in 2017 and Belongings continues our commitment to commissioning challenging new work with significant contemporary relevance. It is essential for Glyndebourne to provide the space for young people to engage with the world around them’.

The young performers, aged 9-19, will be accompanied by three professional opera singers including the versatile British bass-baritone Rodney Earl Clarke, who reached the semi-finals of Britain’s Got Talent in 2016 as part of the classical crossover group Vox Fortura.

The other professional singers are mezzo-soprano Leslie Davis and soprano Nardus Williams, the first singer to win the Trinity Laban Gold Medal.

Belongings is performed at Glyndebourne on Saturday 11 November 2017.