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Glyndebourne premiere for student composer's opera

Composer Julian Philips’ new opera premièred at the world-renowned Sussex opera house as part of a special collaboration between the University of Sussex and Glyndebourne.

The Yellow Sofa, a tale of sex, a city and the seductive power of furniture, which premiered on Thursday 20 August at Glyndebourne, was composed by Julian with a libretto by Edward Kemp. It is the culmination of doctoral student Julian’s three-year tenure as Composer in Residence at Glyndebourne.

The chamber opera, based on a novella by Portuguese writer Eca de Quieros, tells the story of Godofredo Alves, a businessman who comes home to find his wife in the arms of his best friend and business partner. He determines at once to seek revenge.

The project is a unique collaboration between one of Europe's most esteemed opera houses and the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre at the University of Sussex, and exemplifies the Centre's commitment to ensuring the widest possible impact for academically-led research.

Julian was appointed as Glyndebourne’s first ever Composer-in-Residence in 2006. In partnership with the University of Sussex, he has worked closely with Glyndebourne’s pioneering education department, providing musicians, singers and community groups with the opportunity to take part in music-making.

Julian’s work was funded by a collaborative research award from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Alan and Karen Grieve Charitable Trust. The AHRC introduced the collaborative doctoral awards scheme in 2005, with the aim of promoting partnerships and research collaboration between universities and non-academic institutions.

The Yellow Sofa was created for the Jerwood Chorus Development Scheme, based at Glyndebourne, which fosters new talent within Glyndebourne’s own dedicated Chorus while providing Chorus members with performing opportunities. Members of the Chorus are accompanied by The Britten Sinfonia, making its house debut at Glyndebourne under conductor Leo McFall. The production is directed by Frederick Wake-Walker.

Julian says: “The past two years at Glyndebourne have been an extraordinary opportunity to engage with opera in theory and practice, and The Yellow Sofa marks the culmination of this. My residency has allowed me to absorb myself in this complex art-form, testing my own instincts through development time with company singers, sitting in on music and production rehearsals and formulating my own creative response.”



Notes for Editors

For more information about opera studies at the University of Sussex, see the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre


The Yellow Sofa will be performed by members of The Glyndebourne Chorus on the following dates during the 2009 Festival:

  • Sunday 23 August 14:25 (before L'elisir d'amore)
  • Tuesday 25 August 15:40 (before L'elisir d'amore)
  • Friday 28 August 14:35 (before Rusalka)

Tickets are FREE but there is limited availability. Book by telephoning the Box Office on +44 (0) 1273 813813 (open 7 days, 10am-6pm). Please note these tickets are only available to Festival ticket holders for performances on the same day.

The Composer

Julian Philips studied music at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and is one of Britain’s most versatile and busy composers. Previous work includes commissions for The Opera Group, the Welsh National Opera, and theatre collaborations with director Michael Grandage, including productions of The Tempest starring Sir Derek Jacobi (Old Vic, London) and Richard III with Kenneth Branagh (Crucible Theatre, Sheffield). A vital force in education, Philips holds the post of Joint Head of Composition at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and was made Honorary Fellow there in 2007.

Glyndebourne Festival

Founded in 1934, the Glyndebourne Festival is now in its 75th season, with a repertoire that incorporates operas from the baroque to the contemporary. The opera house itself was rebuilt in 1994 and now seats 1,200. Glyndebourne’s Education department currently hosts over 230 different activities each year. Contact for further information.

Photograph: Pictured Foreground: Callum Thorpe as Carvahlo, Rhian Lewis as Teresa. Background: Elizabeth Llewellyn as Ludovina, Philip Shakesby as Neto. Photograph by Simon Laundon

Last updated: Friday, 21 August 2009