Sussex-based opera house Glyndebourne is set to kick off 2022 with a brand new opera composed by an all-female team. On 25 February Glyndebourne will present the world premiere of Pay the Piper, the house’s first youth opera since 2017.
The opera has been jointly composed by Anna Appleby, Ninfea Cruttwell-Reade, Cecilia Livingston and Ailie Robertson, the four participants of Balancing the Score, a development programme exclusively for female composers. The scheme was set up in 2018 by Glyndebourne to help address the under-representation of female composers in classical music.
Pay the Piper is based on the German folktale of the Pied Piper of Hamelin; it features a libretto by writer and director Hazel Gould. The new opera takes a fresh look at the familiar story, questioning whether we know it quite as well as we think we do. Set after the events of the tale, the people of Hamelin try to piece together what happened, but their memories collide and the story we think we know is challenged. Who was the Piper? Why was payment refused? What price could possibly have been so high that it was worth losing all of the town’s children?
The cast includes Indian-American soprano Maya Kherani as the Piper, British mezzo-soprano Rachael Lloyd as Mother and British baritone Adam Marsden as the Mayor. They will be joined by around 70 young performers aged 9-19 years from Glyndebourne Youth Opera. The young participants come from 47 different schools and all live within 25 miles of Glyndebourne.
Cecilia Livingston, one of the composers of Pay the Piper, commented: “One of the benefits of the Balancing the Score scheme has been connecting with the three other composers. When the opportunity came up to compose a new work to be performed by Glyndebourne Youth Opera, we decided it would be really interesting to collaborate.
“During the pandemic, it’s been even more valuable to have a group of peers to offer support, advice and inspiration. The process so far has been really rewarding, thought provoking, energising and fun. Working on Pay the Piper has been a delightful journey.”
The opera will be directed by Glyndebourne’s Artistic Director Stephen Langridge, based on the ideas and concept developed by the critically acclaimed director Sinéad O’Neill, who is on maternity leave. Young American-British conductor Johann Stuckenbruck and assistant conductor Ashley Beauchamp will work with the Psappha ensemble, an orchestra specialising in the performance of work by living composers.
Delayed by the pandemic, the production will be the first at Glyndebourne to take place in the round in the theatre’s stalls rather than on the stage, which is out of commission as essential works are carried out to the backstage area.
Stephen Langridge said: “You’ll get a completely different view of the theatre, a completely new acoustic. It’s an experience that may not ever happen again, but an opportunity to play in that wonderful space and just see what happens. It’s also fantastic to start the year with a youth opera that will get young people singing again at a time when opportunities for this are increasingly under threat.”
Pay the Piper has four public performances at Glyndebourne between 25 and 27 February, including a ‘chilled’ afternoon performance, with a casual approach to noise and movement in the auditorium, suitable for all the family, on 26 February. There will also be a dedicated Performance for Schools on 24 February. Tickets are on sale now.
Glyndebourne’s premiere of new youth opera Pay the Piper will feature young performers from the Glyndebourne Youth Opera. The production will receive its first ever performance on 25 February 2022.