Explore John Lunn’s Misper in our archive.

Project summary

In 1997 Glyndebourne education commissioned writer Stephen Plaice and composer John Lunn to create a youth opera for the main stage with 5 professional singers, 73 young people in cast and a youth orchestra. It was revived at Glyndebourne in 1998.


The prologue is set in 12th century China, where a philosopher is writing about the future. Managing to blot and burn a page of his manuscript, he must travel to the future to put matters right. In Crayford, England, 1999, a bunch of lads are up to no good at a railway line: Frank sprays his mark on a tunnel wall, while Barry puts a concrete block on the track. The train derails and the driver is hurt.

A police inspector turns up at the school to question the kids. They have discovered the absent Frank’s mark on the wall and the finger of blame points to him. The inspector also warns the kids about a missing person, or misper, seen in the vicinity: he might be responsible for some fires in Crayford recently. Julie, who knows Frank could not be to blame for the derailment, determines to emulate her heroine, a TV detective, and find out the truth. Frank is hiding out at Blackthorn Tip, where the philosopher – alias the Misper – befriends him. Barry helps catch Frank and the Misper and hands them over to the police. Julie is now sure Frank is innocent.

She uses the fact that Barry fancies her to prove him guilty. He invites her out for a Chinese meal with the proceeds of his petty crimes, and she records their conversation. The Misper then warns her that Barry is setting the school on fire, and she saves his life. Barry is arrested and admits everything. At the tip, the Misper explains to Frank that he will return to his own time and that none of these events will happen. Back in China, he sees that the manuscript is unblemished.

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