Helping The Gardeners to grow: a new chamber opera

by Robert Hugill in London, England, United Kingdom

We did it
On 30th April 2019 we successfully raised £1,475 with 24 supporters in 35 days

We are creating a new opera to enrich people’s lives through culture, and to increase their awareness of the effects of global conflict

by Robert Hugill in London, England, United Kingdom

This is your opportunity to enrich people’s lives through culture, to increase their awareness of the effects of global conflict, and to entertain people through critically acclaimed opera inspired by a real life story.

Hello, my name is Robert Hugill, you may know me as a blogger behind the classical music blog Planet Hugill. I am also a composer and have written music all my life. A number of my songs have won awards, and I have reached the finals of English Poetry and Song Society’s A.E Houseman, Ivor Gurney and Diamond Songs Competitions. My latest project in partnership with librettist Joanne Wyld is a new chamber opera entitled The Gardeners, due to premiere at Conway Hall in London on 18 June 2019. The music is written, an outstanding cast has been selected, the musicians are appointed and the rehearsals are just about to start.

However, we need your support to generate an audience for this important piece of work.

I am delighted to be conducting the first performance of Robert Hugill’s new opera The Gardeners on 18th June 2019 at Conway Hall. It is a tightly written, dramatic new chamber opera that will be performed with a top ranking, young cast of singers from a variety of backgrounds. The subject matter of the piece is particularly contemporary, relevant and hard-hitting, with a superb libretto by Joanna Wyld. The scoring is innovative, dynamic and flexible. This is an excellent new work that I hope will enter the modern opera repertory and receive many more performances. - conductor William Vann on The Gardeners

As is the story of many artists, composers and creators, all of the work to date has been created in our own time, with no fee, salary or income attached. Therefore, the marketing budget for the production is very very small. We need your donations and support to increase this marketing budget so that we can ensure the cast and musicians get the exposure they deserve, and develop new audiences for opera who will fall in love with this art form for the first time, and hopefully pass on their love for opera to the younger generations in their family.

Hugill is clearly a composer of discernment, imagination, and drive, and his score encompassed many a gem - Jill Barlow's review of Robert Hugill's When a Man Knows in Tempo Magazine

The Gardeners promises to be a performance of great critical acclaim. My three previous operas, were all premiered in London and received fantastic reviews. 

  • Garrett was performed at Hoxton Hall in 2001 directed by Darren Royston with Damian Thantrey as Garrett, 
  • When a Man Knows received its stage premiere at the Bridewell Theatre in 2011 directed by Ian Caddy, conducted by David Roblou, with Dario Duganzic as the man and Zoe South as the woman. [see the video of When a Man Knows on Vimeo, read Classical Iconoclast's review of the opera]
  • The Genesis of Frankenstein was premiere in 2016 at the CLF Art Café by the Helios Ensemble, directed by Ella Marchment and conducted by Noah Mosley. [see the video of The Genesis of Frankenstein on Vimeo]

This is what good chamber opera should be like. It's modern, yet not so experimental that it can't reach out and draw an audience in. It's compact, too, and travels well - Classical Iconoclast blog's review of When a Man Knows

The Gardeners is being performed by an exciting group of young artists.

  • The conductor is William Vann, director of music at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea and founder & artistic director of the London English Song Festival
  • The Gardener is Julian Debreuil, a Wingate Foundation Award winner and Lord Talbot in Opera Up Close’s new production of Donizetti’s Mary Stuart
  • The Old Gardener is Peter Brathwaite, whose appearances have included singing with English National Opera and Opera North)
  • The Angry Young Man is Magid El-Bushra whose appearances include performing with the Orchestre de Radio France and singing in the 2019 premiere of Noah Mosley’s opera Aurora at Bury Court Opera
  • The Grandmother is Flora Mcintosh, an Anne Zeigler Award winner and singing the title role in Opera Up Close’s new production of Donizetti’s Mary Stuart
  • The Mother is Georgia Mae Bishop, an Opera Holland Park young artist 2019

They will be supported by an instrumental ensemble which includes harpist Oliver Wass who is a former St John’s Smith Square young artist. You can read more about the opera and the cast at the opera's dedicated website,

Hugill writes with a real awareness of beauty of text and of sound - Fanfare Magazine on Robert Hugill's CD Quickening

Your donations will  generate audience for this very important, crucially timely opera which has the potential to open peoples eyes to the devastating impacts of lands torn apart by war and conflict. The Gardeners was inspired by a real life newspaper article about a Middle Eastern family who looks after a Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery [Tom Rowley's article appeared in The Telegraph Magazine on 13 May 2017]

Whenever he spends a day with the dead, which is often, Ibrahim Jaradah dresses with care. Sometimes he wears a shirt and smart trousers. Other times, it’s the navy suit he wore to propose to his girlfriend last year. His brown shoes are always immaculately buffed. The dead, of course, are in no position to judge. - Tom Rowley writing in The Telegraph Magazine, 13 May 2017

In the opera, the graves belong to the Dead, who once invaded the land in which they lie. Tensions rise between three generations of the same family who look after war graves in this politically divided region. The opera treats the themes of tolerance, remembrance and brotherhood and Joanna’s poetic libretto uses the garden as a metaphor for the possibility of growth and renewal.

This new opera is important: 

  • because of its crucial message hidden within the story. 
  • because it has a cast of superb young musicians, cast and creatives who deserve recognition. 
  • because opera is considered to be a high brow art form, and we are doing everything we can to break down those barriers and encourage people to experience opera for the first time.

Your donations will enable people to experience a night of entertainment, see new things, hear new sounds and learn new stories that will stay with them for a life time.

Thank you so much for your support.


This project offers rewards in return for your donation. Please select a reward below.

£50 or more

1 of 25 claimed

Signed page of the musical manuscript

Unique handwritten page of the musical manuscript from The Gardeners, signed and dedicated by composer Robert Hugill and librettist Joanna Wyld

£40 or more

2 of 25 claimed

Reserved seat at the premiere

At the first performance of the opera on 18 June 2019, the tickets are unreserved but through crowd funding you can have your own personnally reserved seat

£100 or more

3 of 5 claimed


Unique handwritten musical manuscript of a short scene from the opera, signed and dedicated by Robert Hugill and Joanna Wyld. Credit in the programme and on the website

£250 or more

1 of 2 claimed


Unique handwritten musical manuscript of a full scene from the opera, signed and dedicated by Robert Hugill and Joanna Wyld. Credit in the programme and on the website

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