Garsington Opera announces Youth Company opera commissions 2021/2022


The operas will be performed by community participants with professional adult soloists. Garsington Opera Youth Company gives young people the opportunity to develop singing, creative skills, stage experience, experience backstage roles and theatre design. It is open to all; fully funded places are awarded to successful auditionees who don’t need any previous training or experience. You don’t have to be able to read music to join in on stage at Garsington Opera. We are looking for young people who show potential and are passionate about exploring their creativity.

2021: The Selfish Giant (A co-commission with Opera North, to be readapted by the composer to suit the different companies)

This new production, based on the story by Oscar Wilde, will feature 90 members of our Youth Company aged 7-25, performing alongside young professional singers. It will premiere on 29 July 2021.

We’re recruiting now – deadline 1 March 2021 – please head to our website to register your interest, ask any questions and record your video!

Composer, John Barber 
Librettist, Jessica Duchen
Director, Karen Gillingham 
Vocal Director, Suzi Zumpe
Designer, Ruth Paton 
Conductor, Jack Ridley

John Barber says: ‘The Selfish Giant is a story full of magic, drama and hope for the future. I have always been bowled over by the creativity, commitment and sheer musical energy of the Garsington Youth Company and can’t wait to see and hear them back on Garsington’s stage where they belong.’ An excerpt of the music, Our Haven, was recorded and performed by our Youth Company during the first lockdown in the summer of 2020. To produce the film, the company of 93 young people worked with filmmaker Claudia Lee, director Karen Gillingham and vocal directors Suzi Zumpe & Lea Cornthwaite. They learnt songs from the piece and filmed themselves on their own devices and talked to camera about their ‘Haven’ during lockdown.

Watch Our Haven:

2022: Dalia – A new People’s Opera, co-created and performed by 180 amateur and professional participants.

The central character, Dalia – a young girl of 12, arrives in Britain as a refugee from Syria having lost her family in traumatic circumstances. Fostered by a local family, she discovers a passion for cricket. She follows her dream but must contend, however, with racism from the community, battle her demons and make an impossible decision.

Composer, Roxanna Panufnik
Librettist, Jessica Duchen
Director, Karen Gillingham
Conductor, Douglas Boyd
Community Liaison, Manas Ghanem
Chief consultant, Gulwali Passerlay
Garsington Youth and Adult Companies, Philharmonia Orchestra

DALIA has been commissioned by Garsington Opera to engage local participants of all ages from diverse backgrounds, together with emerging artists and new audiences in a creative community opera. The objective of the project is to use music and drama as tools for social integration over three years (2021-2023) in our diverse local communities, uniting participants to work together across perceived boundaries of race, faith, age and rural locality. This builds on a proven format of projects, successfully delivered in partnership with 16 local state schools and evaluated over the last 10 years at Garsington Opera. The creative team is partly reunited from the wildly successful People’s Opera Silver Birch (Garsington Opera 2017) which was acclaimed as a ground-breaking artistic achievement and shortlisted for an International Opera Award: “a nonstop hourlong drama that is cinematic in its scope and fluidity” (The Times, Richard Morrison).

DALIA, premiering in summer 2022, is an original story, developed in close consultation with refugee organisations including Street Child and Refugees at Home, sports charities and practitioners including BBC cricket commentator Elly Oldroyd. The female-led creative team is joined by ex-refugee and motivational speaker Gulwali Passerlay (author of The Lightless Sky) and Manas Ghanem (previously of the United Nations High Commission on Action for Refugees). A research & development session has also taken place with Amwaj Choir in Bethlehem.

“The story is simply realistic and very inspiring. We can all easily relate no matter where we come from. It highlights the important values that make us better beings through the struggles of the characters. Motherhood and family, community and support, will-power, commitment and dedication to the team and the game, kindness, empathy and being humane. The story is like a cultural exchange experience, a window that opens inwards and helps us see with new light how beautiful and strong we are when we value and celebrate our humanity.”
Manas Ghanem, community liaison

DALIA has been shortlisted for a FEDORA 2021 prize. FEDORA offers a platform for innovation, creativity and experimentation. The FEDORA Prizes Competition matches cutting-edge innovative projects with international funding opportunities enabling the unexpected to reach the stage.