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Stephen Langridge introduces Pay the Piper - our brand new youth opera

Artistic director Stephen Langridge introduces Pay the Piper – our brand new youth opera…

Pay the Piper is a very special event from many perspectives.

The first, most obvious difference to every other Glyndebourne performance, ever, is that the performers have invaded the auditorium. The initial impetus was practical – our stage is currently undergoing a huge upgrade spread over several years, with a new all-singing, all-dancing automated backstage system. Very exciting possibilities ahead – but currently the stage is a building site, and out of commission (it’ll be back in use for the Festival). So, what to do? Cancel the youth opera project? No way. Instead, we’ve taken out the stalls to make space for Glyndebourne’s first opera (almost) in-the-round adventure at home, giving us a new visual and aural perspective

Secondly, this is an opera by four composers, which is unusual, to say the least – perhaps unique – and presented librettist, Hazel Gould, with a challenge: how to make sense of a story with four individual musical voices? Her response is ingenious. Pay the Piper explodes a well known narrative – The Pied Piper of Hamlyn, a story already told in many versions, and which we all think we know – and retells it from several perspectives, the composers’, yes, but also from the viewpoint of the characters in the story rather than of an omniscient narrator. What we have in the end is an opera of constantly shifting subjectivity.

Header image: Richard Hubert Smith. Rehearsal images above: James Bellorini

The production was originally conceived by the director, Sinéad O’Neill, and designer Joanna Parker… but the project was twice delayed because of you-know-what, and time moved on, so that Sinéad is now on maternity leave, and Joanna is reviving Glyndebourne’s production of The Barber of Seville in Malmö, Sweden. So, it has fallen to designer, Natalia Orendain and me to take the project forward. An unusual and delightful experience. Luckily for me the young people already knew the piece really well, as did associate director, Simone Ibbett-Brown. Personally speaking, it has been a wonderful opportunity to return to my Glyndebourne roots, working with young people: it all started that way for me, working on countless creative participation projects here, and to be honest, I’ve missed it.

I hope you enjoy the new perspective in the theatre, and the many perspectives of the opera, but above all, the dynamic engagement of Glyndebourne Youth Opera. I am constantly meeting people who were involved in previous Glyndebourne youth operas, many of whom have remained in touch with the company and the friends they made at the time, several of whom went on to make important careers in the performing arts. I can tell you that working with such a talented and dedicated group leaves me feeling optimistic about the future. So, watch with a keen eye and ear – when they are making artistic waves in years to come, you will be able to boast that you saw them back in the day, just post-pandemic.

– Stephen Langridge, Artistic Director

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