Youth Company

About the Youth Company

Artistic Director: Karen Gillingham
Vocal Director: Suzi Zumpe

Garsington Youth Company provides local young people aged 9-21 with the opportunity to develop their singing, creative skills, confidence and stage experience through the exciting world of opera. The Youth Company is divided into two groups: Junior Youth Company (ages 9-13) and Senior Youth Company (ages 13-21). 

During annual Easter and summer residencies, young singers learn from world-class stage and music directors, leading up to a performance on the main stage for an invited audience at Wormsley. In 2017 the Youth Company took part in the hugely successful world premiere of Silver Birch, performing three sold-out nights at Wormsley alongside international opera stars and the Foley Sound Design team from Pinewood Studios. Silver Birch was subsequently nominated for the International Opera Awards. 

In 2018 the Youth Company performed a new production of Eliza and the Swans, an opera by John Barber (composer) and Hazel Gould (librettist), on the main stage at Wormsley. 

Participation for Youth Company members is free of charge, and we are very grateful to donors who support this work. 

2019 Opera: The Happy Princess

We are delighted to have been able to commission a brand new opera, The Happy Princess, written especially for our Youth Company. Based on The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde, the music will be composed by Paul Fincham with a libretto by Jessica Duchen (Silver Birch, 2017). 

Mailing list
If you could like to receive occasional email updates about future auditions, projects and opportunities, please contact our Learning & Participation Co-ordinator, Julian Guidera

Creative Team

Karen Gillingham ​director
Karen is a freelance opera director, facilitator and creative director of Garsington Opera Learning & Participation. She recently directed A Trip to the Moon at LSO Barbican with Sir Simon Rattle, Silver Birch at Garsington Opera, Beautiful World at the Abu Dhabi National Theatre, and Hospital Passion Play at the V&A Museum. Karen trained as a director and performer at both Manchester Metropolitan University and on The Knack at English National Opera, and was co-artistic director of the Royal Opera House's Youth Opera Company for nine years. She has worked with all the major UK opera companies on productions including The Magic Flute (Garsington Opera at West Green House); Twenty Women Singing (a tour of women's prisons with Welsh National Opera) as well as large-scale community operas: South of the River (ENO) and Beached (Opera North). Other productions include Magna Carta - The Freedom Game (community opera at the Royal Albert Hall); Out of the Ruins (ROH) and the WorldSkills opening ceremony at the O2. 

Suzi Zumpe vocal director
Suzi is a vocal leader, coach and singer who specialises in teaching complicated material to a broad range of people, regardless of their previous musical experience. She regularly trains large groups - professional and non-professional alike, working with challenging repertoire and imparting good singing technique stealthily along the way. Comfortable with all ranges of expertise, she has worked with opera houses, with children, with the corporate sector, with conservatoires, with teenagers, with classroom teachers and with the homeless. Companies with whom she has recently worked include Garsington Opera, English National Opera, Music for Youth, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Opera House, Spitalfields Music Festival, Southbank Centre, Aurora Orchestra, the Stephen Petronio Company, Glyndebourne Opera and the London Symphony Orchestra. She is a founding partner of Better Performance, a corporate leadership development programme. 

Jessica Duchen librettist
Jessica writes words for, with and about music. She was classical music correspondent for The Independent from 2004 to 2016 and her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Observer, The Sunday Times, BBC Music Magazine and Opera News. She wrote the libretto for Silver Birch with composer Roxanna Panufnik, commissioned by Garsington Opera and shortlisted for an International Opera Award in 2018. A further collaboration between the two was Across the Line of Dreams, a choral piece for the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, chorus and two conductors, premiered in March 2019. Among her novels are Ghost Variations, based on the true story of the Schumann Violin Concerto's rediscovery in the 1930s, and Odette, a magical-realist fairytale. Concert versions of her books have been featured at the Wigmore Hall, numerous UK festivals and on BBC Radio 3's In Tune.  

Paul Fincham composer
Paul started composing at an early age, composed a rock opera at school and went on to read music at Cambridge University where he was music director of Cambridge Footlights. He returned to composing in 2012, focusing on film and choral music. His score for Norman Gregory's award-winning film A Reason to Leave won the Best Original Score Award at the London International Filmmakers' Festival in February 2017 and he has been commissioned to write choral works by the London Philharmonic Choir and the British Museum. His first Christmas carol, Ring the Bells, was premiered by the London Philharmonic Choir under Toby Purser at the Royal Albert Hall in December 2017 and is being published by Boosey and Hawkes.