Learning and Participation

Henny Penny
opera education
school projects

Reading at the Poem-a-thon

Stephen is Writer in Residence and Professor of Dramatic Writing in the Composition Department at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, where he co-runs the Opera Making and Writing MA as well as convening the Guildhall Poets Critical Forum. He is currently researching his forthcoming book Who Wrote the Libretto? at the School.

Henny Penny

henny penny

With the composer Julian Philips, Stephen has written a post-truth children's opera, Henny Penny, about the alarmist chicken that convinced all the other creatures in the wood (except the fox) that the sky was falling in. This participatory opera is designed so that it can be performed in many different languages, and can be used as a teaching tool to promoted foreign languages in schools.

An animated film of the opera has been produced by Onenote, together with a series of teaching videos (only in French so far, but it is hoped to develop these in many other languages). The animated version should be available from early 2022.

Post Covid it is hoped to recommence with the workshops which began in Islington schools in January 2020, just before the pandemic, and subsequently in primary schools up and down the country.

The libretto is now available in French and English.The opera is part of the Cross Language Dynamics Project, funded by the Open World Reseach Initiative.

opera education

workshop with young musicians

Stephen has wide experience in opera education beyond GSMD.

In 2018 Stephen worked on the introductory phase of the 'BAME in Opera' programme for the Mosaic Opera Collective.

He has worked extensively with the Altana Institute in Frankfurt, training German artists and teachers to introduce collaborative arts workshops into the school system in Frankfurt and Munich.

In the early 2000s he worked on three projects with Zukunft@BPhil, the education department of the Berlin Philharmonic. In 2005 He collaborated with the composer Nigel Osborne and the director Stephen Langridge with inmates of Plötzensee Prison to produce a music theatre piece based on Bluebeard's Castle entitled Seven Doors. In 2004 he worked with three schools in the Berlin suburb of Buch, using local graffiti as the starting-point for a project entitled Secret Signs. In 2003 he devised a piece with music students Requiem For Whom?, which was performed at the Gedächtniskirche in Berlin.

In 2011, with Stephen Langridge, he co-led the Jerwood Opera Course at Aldeburgh, and is a regular speaker on the course.

Stephen was Writer in Residence at Lewes Prison from 1987-1994. While he was there he invited in a workshop team from Glyndeboure to run workshops for the prisoners. This was led by Nigel Osbourne and Stephen Langridge. The workshop became an annual event at the prison, and also led to Stephen writing librettos for Glyndebourne, initially for children, youth and community projects. Out of this collaboration, encouraged by Katie Tearle, the former Head of Glyndebourne Education, came the operas Misper, Zoë, School 4 Lovers and Imago.

school projects

Rainland poster

Stephen has wide experience in opera education, having worked extensively with Glyndebourne Education, ROH Learning and Participation, and the Hackney Development Trust. You can read about some of these collaborations in the Productions sections.

In 2019, with the composer Matthew King, Stephen wrote a song cycle for schools to commemorate the D Day landings. In 2015, again with Matthew King he wrote a song cycle celebrating the Dunkirk rescue. Both projects were for HMDT.

In 2013, as part of the Benjamin Britain Friday Afternoons Project, Stephen collaborated with the composer Richard Taylor, encouraging schoolchildren in the Midlands to write their own folk-songs.

In 2004, with the composer Joseph Phibbs, he was commissioned to write a choral drama Rainland for the 25th anniversary of the East Sussex Music Service. This was performed by a chorus of over a thousand children and three soloists at the Royal Albert Hall.