Knight Crew

(1999), a youth opera



The dead Art is tortured by the spirit of the boy he killed and is endlessly tormented by the events of his short life.


Mordec tells his young brother Art to join the Knight Crew; despite his mother’s pleas, Art agrees.

An old bag lady, Myrtle, challenges Art to look at the world differently. She tells him he will be king and writes down her prophecy in the Book of the Future.

Art meets the Knight Crew and once his initiation has begun, Mordec, Elayne sing of the Crew’s ambitions for the future. When Myrtle questions this future, Mordec warns her to stay away. When she foresees Art as King and Quin as Queen, Mordec jokes that it is more likely that his own Knife would kill without spilling blood. Myrtle writes this in her book as a new prophecy. To complete his initiation, Art is told to bring back a knife with the blood of the rival Saxon gang on it.

Art stabs a Saxon boy and returns to be congratulated by the Knight Crew. Myrtle interrupts to say that the Saxon boy – whose name is Danny MacMahon – has died. Elayne arrives to confirm Myrtle’s words and warn that the Saxons are about to attack. The Crew arm themselves and go to battle.

The Mothers lament the loss of their children.

The Knight Crew celebrate their victory over the Saxons but when Myrtle accuses Mordec of cowardice, he stabs and kills her. As he throws her staff onto the fire, a spark leaps into his eye and blinds him.

Art withdraws the Knife from Myrtle’s body – it is bloodless because it stuck in the Book of the Future. Art doesn’t understand but Quin explains that it’s time for him to be king. Art promises to keep the knife clean for the rest of his life in honour of Myrtle, whose body they drop into the water.

Mordec can barely walk. Lance, passing on his motorbike, offers to take him to hospital.

Art takes control of the Knight Crew, inviting the truest Knights to sit around a circle with him. Elayne fails to take up her seat and nobody knows where she is. The Knights swear to be loyal – if anyone betrays Art, the Knife will fall.

Lance brings news that Mordec has been treated and will be all right.

The Saxon’s leader Big Shank arrives with their best fighter Hell Raiser seeking revenge for Danny’s death. They have taken Elayne prisoner and offer to exchange her for the man who killed Danny. They agree on a fight to the death between one man from each gang. If the Knight Crew win, Elayne goes free; if they lose, Art dies. Lance volunteers to fight and Art accepts his offer.

Lance defeats Hell-Raiser, despite Hell Raiser pulling a knife, but Lance refuses to kill him. Instead, he shows mercy.


Mordec is bitter that his brother has taken over his gang. He rejects Art’s offer to join the circle, which now includes Lance, and insults the Knights. He is chased away.

Lance, Quin, Elayne and Art grow close during the golden age of Art’s rule. Lance teaches his friends to meditate, Quin teaches them a song from her African childhood.

One night Lance and Quin slip away. Mordec suspects he knows why and suggests that Art should ask Quin where Lance is. Art is unsettled, but says he trusts both Quin and Lance. He tells Mordec to find Lance.

Alone, Art questions whether he should trust Lance. The ghost of Danny MacMahon appears to him and Art pleads for forgiveness.



Knight Crew wikipedia entry





Cast & Orchestra


Art – tenor

Mordec – bass baritone

Myrtle/Mother – mezzo soprano

Quin – soprano

Lance – actor (high voice)

Elayne – actor (medium voice)

Danny – boy treble

Knight Crew Chorus – mixed voices

Danny chorus – unbroken voices

Mothers’ Chorus women’s chorus


3d1, 2, 3+bass, 2, sop & tenor sax, 4, 4, 3, 1, timp, 3 perc, piano, strings


One of the largest Glyndebourne education projects, Knight Crew was a large-scale community opera commissioned specifically for the main stage, involving every department at Glyndebourne. It was performed in March 2010 on the main stage at Glyndebourne. Based on the book of the same name by Nicky Singer, Knight Crew is an urban story based on the King Arthur legend, brought to the stage by a collaboration including Glyndebourne’s first Composer-in-Residence, Julian Philips; librettist and award-winning author Nicky Singer; and director John Fulljames.

Knight Crew was premiered at Glyndebourne Festival in March 2010, conducted by Nick Colon. It subsequently featured in an award-winning BBC Two documentary, featuring Gareth Malone. Malone, who first worked with Glyndebourne education in 2000, returned to work on Knight Crew as Chorus Master, helping to find new talent and reach teenagers who would never normally get the chance to appear in an opera. Gareth’s journey, from auditioning the young chorus through to the final performances at Glyndebourne, was filmed by the BBC as a three-part documentary – Gareth Malone Goes to Glyndebourne – which was first broadcast on BBC2 in June 2010. The documentary went on to win an Emmy Award in the Arts Programming category at the 2011 International Emmy Awards.