Despite the concerning news stories about Covid- era conditions in universities at the moment, most of the students I personally encounter (online of course) are beavering away if anything harder than ever. It was very interesting to drop into the student-run Oxford Contemporary Opera discussion series – and indeed an honour to be invited. I was following on from director Barrie Kosky, with the Royal Opera House’s Oliver Mears coming up.
Expectably, I was asked by interviewer Zerlina Vulliamy to give advice for young composers hoping to become involved in opera. I feel it’s almost cheating even to try to do this, as there’s no reliable path which will get you there. The actual advice might be “make sure you’re in the right place at the right time when your lucky break happens, if it ever does”. But I found myself talking about what I most vividly remember from my years of writing opera almost full time; the massive amount of music you have to write, preferably at speed. So the advice that emerged was, practise being musically fluent, and be prepared to work in many musical styles. Being at the sharp end of an opera deadline is not the time to be aesthetically precious.