Time Capsule

Monday 27-Friday 31 August 2018

It is hard to believe that over 5 days a group of 60 young people aged 12-17 years and from 18 different schools came together for the first time to create a devised opera. What their parents saw in the final performance had been created from their inspiration and imagination.

This project has always been about the process and not the product. The aim was to give these young people an immersive experience, offering them creative ownership to embrace music, drama, dance and design. In return they have dug deeply to challenge themselves, to try new things and to find new levels of collaboration and communication. They have taken the given theme of Time Capsule and run with it, developing original ideas in the three disciplines to create a contemporary piece relevant to how these wonderful young people see the world.

We hope they have gained vocal, dramatic and creative confidence. More than that we hope they have learnt from working together in a mixed age group, taking control, making quick decisions and thinking on their feet. If they develop an interest in opera we will be delighted!

Susan Hamilton
Head of Learning


Karen Gillingham (Director) is an experienced and talented leader of large scale youth and community group projects at Royal Opera House, London Symphony Orchestra, ENO and Garsington Opera;

Dominic Harlan (Music Director) has devised and led workshops with Glyndebourne, Opera North and at the Cheltenham Festival.

Ruth Paton (Designer) has worked on large scale educational and community projects with ROH, ENO, ETO and British Museum.

Natasha Khamjani (Choreographer) uses a variety of dance styles from Lindy Hop to contemporary in large community groups including the Opening ceremony of the 2012 London Olympics.

with Anna Sideris (Soprano) and Rob Gildon (Baritone)


2205. The earth is dying. A group of scientists are working hard at their research centre to find another planet to live on. Finally they manage to make contact with the Zanavoids, living in a sweet, golden paradise.

The Zanavoids ask the humans why they should allow them to live in Zainford when they have clearly destroyed their own planet with their selfishness.

The humans start to worry about all the bad things they have done and become paranoid that the Zanavoids will find out and refuse to take them. They start to tell the Zanavoids about all the great things in the world but it proves too difficult to describe their feelings, like love and laughter.

They send a Time Capsule to Zainford and wait to see if it has made a difference.

The Zanvoids and the humans unite in a lullaby deciding to forget the past and celebrate their differences.

‘It’s been such a privilege to spend five days working with this extraordinary group of young people. We began the week with the scenario ‘we have destroyed our planet and urgently need to find another to live on’. We chose three pieces of pre-existing repertoire; Faust– Gounod – the song for the golden calf, and two Mozart pieces; the finale from Marriage of Figaro ‘Forgive Me’ and the Love Duet of Papageno & Papagena from The Magic Flute. All the other text and music has been created from questions such as “What are the selling points of humans?”, “What shows humanity in it’s most favourable light?”, “Think of something that humanity has done or created that you would rather they didn’t know about”. From the cast’s responses, and through a series of drama exercises we generated the words for our story and developed the structure of the piece.’ 

Karen Gillingham | Director