Glyndebourne premiere for student’s youth opera

Composer and University of Sussex DPhil student Julian Philips. Photo: David Illman

A youth opera with music by University of Sussex research student Julian Philips gets its world premiere at Glyndebourne opera house this week (4-6 Mar 2010).

Julian Philips, currently in his final year of a DPhil project as composer-in-residence at Glyndebourne Opera under the supervision of University of Sussex Professor Nick Till in the Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre, was commissioned by Glyndebourne to write the score for the opera, Knight Crew.

The opera story is based on a novel by Brighton writer Nicky Singer, which places the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table in a contemporary urban setting.

Julian, currently in the thick of final rehearsals, says: “My residency at Glyndebourne has been an extraordinary opportunity to engage with opera in theory and practice. I’ve been able to absorb myself in this complex art-form and develop my own creative response.”

Professor Till says: “Sussex and Glyndebourne have collaborated closely on this project, which investigated the potential for a composer to develop new operatic works that are both challenging and accessible for contemporary audiences and has demonstrated the value of academic and professional organisations working together.”

The commission follows on from Julian’s three-year term as Glyndebourne’s first composer-in-residence. His residency culminated in a new work, The Yellow Sofa, performed at Glyndebourne in 2009.

Now Julian has produced a score for saxophones, brass, electric keyboard, double bass and percussion, to be performed by young singers and musicians from Sussex, many of whom will be experiencing opera performance for the first time.

Six professional singers will be joined on stage by 60 performers aged 14-18 from Ringmer, joined by a chorus of local adults and an orchestra of professional and youth musicians.

Gareth Malone, best known for BBC 2’s BAFTA award-winning The Choir, where teenagers were introduced to the world of choral singing, is choir master for the project, which has been filmed for a new BBC 2 programme called Gareth Goes to Glyndebourne. The programme follows the development of Knight Crew through rehearsals to performance.

Knight Crew is the latest work from Glyndebourne’s education department, which aims to reach out an involve wider audiences in opera and music-making.

Julian’s residency at Glyndebourne, in partnership with the University of Sussex, was made possible by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) collaborative doctoral award and funding from the Alan and Karen Grieve Charitable Trust.

See The Guardian's four-star review

Notes for Editors

Knight Crew performances begin at 7pm on Thursday 4, Friday 5 and Saturday 6 March on the main stage at Glyndebourne. Box office: 01273 813813 or email

For Press enquires, contact

Julian Philips is one of Britain’s most versatile and busy composers and a DPhil student at Sussex.

To find out more about opera studies at the University of Sussex, visit Centre for Research in Opera and Music Theatre

The Knight Crew web site charts the development of the opera

University of Sussex Press office contacts: Maggie Clune and Jacqui Bealing. Tel@ 01273 678 888 or email


Last updated: Wednesday, 10 March 2010