Panufnik’s Silver Birch – Garsington Opera

Panufnik’s Silver Birch – Garsington Opera

A People’s Opera starring over 180 people from the ages of 8-80

Suzi was vocal director for this People’s Opera in which over 180 people from the ages of 8-80 from the local community joined the Silver Birch Company alongside professional artists. The opera was performed on Garsington Opera’s main stage as part of the 2017 Season.


The Community Company included child soloists, primary age children from local schools, a youth company of singers and dancers (age 10-20), an adult company, student instrumentalists, a team of Foley artists (acoustic sound effects), and representatives from the armed forces community, all working alongside the creative team.


BBC Arts Digital followed the process of making Silver Birch and produced three documentary films, looking at different aspects of the project. The film ‘The Story of Silver Birch – A People’s Opera’ follows the creative team in the build up to the performances. You can watch it below:


Composer: Roxana Panufnik; Librettist: Jessica Duchen; Director: Karen Gillingham; Designer: Rhiannon Newman Brown; choreographer: Natasha Khamjani; Conductor: Douglas Boyd

★★★★ 'It's the terrific panache of Karen Gillingham's staging that really socks you between the eyes and ears. It was all superbly played by the Garsington Opera Orchestra, augmented by student instrumentalists and expertly conducted by Douglas Boyd.'

★★★★ 'A remarkable event with a vast community cast. There is a real sense of vision in this coming together, as clear in the unstoppable energy of the performers as it is in the excellence of the stagecraft displayed in Karen Gillingham's complex production.'

★★★★★ 'A work that is having an impact on performers and audiences alike, and which stands as one of the very best examples of this type of opera.'

‘Here were primary school children, teenagers, professional singers, members of a women’s refuge, ex-military personnel… even Sassoon’s own great-nephew lent voice to a chorus of roof-raising passion and purpose.’