Jerwood Opera Writing Programme

Foundation Course

The panel are still considering applications. We will confirm the next Foundation participants by the end of August 2014.

The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme at Aldeburgh Music is designed for composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of writing or creating opera, and who want to widen their horizons and equip themselves to create contemporary work combining music, theatre and text.  Artists can be at any stage of their career.  The Programme takes place at Aldeburgh on the Suffolk coast and this year is led by composer David Sawer and theatre and opera director and designer Stewart Laing.

Aldeburgh Music, with its unique, inspiring environment and its growing programme of professional development for musicians and composers, has an unparalleled history of creating new opera.

With a distinguished faculty of experienced practitioners, the course welcomes applications from composers, writers and practitioners of all disciplines and backgrounds interested in writing vibrant and relevant small-scale works for a modern audience.


The Jerwood Opera Writing Programme was launched in 2007 followed by a second installment in 2010/11. Forty participants made up of composers, writers, and directors have been given a grounding in writing new opera through a mixture of practical workshops, contributions from teachers including Giorgio Battistelli, Harrison Birtwistle, Alison Chitty, Lavinia Greenlaw, Stephen Plaice, Stephen Langridge, David Sawer and Jonathan Dove amongst others.

Following on from this, Jerwood Opera Writing Fellowships were offered, giving a unique opportunity for composers and their collaborators to receive tailor-made support for writing a new opera. Four Fellowships were awarded in 2009, giving support to composers and their collaborators during the creation of a new work.

Foundation Course 2014 - 2015

The programme comprises three week-long workshops at Aldeburgh. Participants will be paired up for creative tasks and create small pieces or extracts to specific briefs.  A wide range of composers, librettists, dramaturgs, directors, singing experts and opera industry professionals will come and give seminars on their own subjects.

The three separate weeks in which participants will be resident at Aldeburgh will be on the following dates.
Week 1: Monday 17 – Friday 21 November 2014
Week 2: Monday 16 – Saturday 21 March 2015
Week 3: Saturday 12 – Friday 18 September 2015
It is important that you are able to attend in Aldeburgh on all dates listed above.

All participants will receive a bursary to cover all tuition costs, and we will help with travel costs both from within and outside the UK.  When in Aldeburgh, participants will be provided with self-catering accommodation and lunch each day.

An advisory panel will select a maximum of 20 participants to take part in the Foundation course.


Foundation Week One, November 2010. Photo: Aaron Holloway-Nahum

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. Are there interviews involved?
A. We may telephone you, or arrange to meet you face to face if appropriate, to ask you for more information.

Q. Who is eligible to apply?
A. The Foundation is designed for composers, writers and directors who have little or no experience of writing and creating opera, but who would like to explore and develop their skills in this field.  You can be at any stage in your career.  We welcome applications from citizens of all nations and countries worldwide.

Q. Can I apply as part of an existing composer/librettist team?
A. No.  One vital consideration of the course is that of collaboration, and as such we will be pairing each participant up with a variety of partners.  However, do apply individually and state that you have an existing working relationship with each other.

Q. I don’t know if I can be available for all three of the residential weeks.  Is there flexibility over the dates?
A. It is essential that you are available to attend all three of the residential weeks in Aldeburgh.  However, there is currently a little flexibility within the dates, as the periods listed for each workshop are longer than one week.  If you think you may be unable to attend on any of the dates listed, before applying please contact Joanna Seifert at Aldeburgh Music by email:

Q. You mention assistance with travel costs.  Who is eligible and for how much?
A. We aim to provide travel bursaries for as many successful applicants as possible, particularly those travelling from outside the UK.  These will be calculated on an individual basis, but could be as much as 100% of your costs.

Q. What else will be covered financially?
A. All participants will be provided with accommodation and one meal daily while you are with us.  All participants will also receive 100% bursaries for tuition.

Q. What happens in the workshops?
A. The workshops are a mixture of practical writing, composing and staging exercises and consideration of the theoretical underpinnings of opera as an art form.

Q. Will artists be provided for the workshops?
A. Singers, actors and instrumentalists will be engaged for each of the workshop weeks for practical demonstrations and to realize the work that is created.

Jerwood Opera Writing Programme

‘Every moment of those precious rehearsal hours was instructive. There is no substitute for actually writing and rehearsing an opera.’ – Marcy Kahan

‘It was a remarkable experience and I think every participant came to realise how unique, exciting and special the Jerwood Opera Writing Programme is. I will definitely write opera in the future.’ – Jack Underwood

Jerwood Opera Writing Programme Blog

Foundation participant, Aaron Holloway-Nahum, shares his thoughts of the first, second and third weeks in these fascinating blog posts.

Week 1 Blog

Week 2 Blog

Week 3 Blog