The Gardeners

A new chamber opera

Music by Robert Hugill

Libretto by Joanna Wyld

With selected phrases adapted from A.E. Housman and Rabindranath Tagore

The Gardener (bass)
The Old Gardener (baritone) - The Gardener's father
The Angry Young Man (counter tenor) - The Gardener's son
The Grandmother (contralto) - The Gardener's mother
The Mother (mezzo-soprano) - The Gardener's wife

The Dead (TTB chorus) - The ghosts of those buried in the Cemetery

Instrumental ensemble - Harp, Clarinet, Violin, Viola, Cello


A Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery in a war-torn country


The Gardeners was inspired by an article about a family of gardeners tending war graves in the Middle East. The family in the article was close-knit, but the setting was ripe for operatic treatment. The Gardeners explores the tensions that might arise between three generations of the same family looking after war graves in a politically divided region. The graves belong to the Dead, who once invaded the land in which they lie.

The Dead communicate with the Old Gardener, to the bewilderment of his family, who cannot hear them. The Gardener works with his father, trying to keep the peace, whereas his son, the Angry Young Man, resents the Dead and is on the cusp of being radicalised. His Mother and Grandmother try to resolve the divisions within their family. After the Gardener discovers that the graves have been vandalised, and suspects his son may be the culprit, the conflict between the Angry Young Man and his family escalates, culminating in the Old Gardener collapsing and dying. Filled with remorse, the Angry Young Man reflects on his actions. As he does so, he starts to hear the voices which had spoken to his grandfather: the voices of the Dead.

The Gardeners will be premiered in concert at
Conway Hall, Red Lion Square, WC1R 4RL
On Tuesday 18 June 2019
Conducted by William Vann