‹ Back to What's On The Firework-Maker's Daughter

23 Mar - 1 Jun 2013

An explosive musical adventure

Based on the story by Philip Pullman

Lila desperately wants to be a firework-maker like her father. But when he refuses to teach her, Lila runs away from home to discover the three gifts of firework-making for herself. With the help of her friends, Chulak and Hamlet, the love-sick elephant, Lila faces pirates, tigers and the terrifying Fire-Fiend on her perilous quest to find out what the three gifts really mean.

This new opera is a vivid re-telling of the award-winning children’s novel by author Philip Pullman, with a libretto by Glyn Maxwell.  David Bruce’s music, bursting with colour and energy, sparkles with humour and musical fireworks of its own and is brought to life by magical puppetry.

Discover this gripping tale of friendship, determination and adventure that will be an explosive theatrical experience for all the family. 


Co-produced by The Opera Group and Opera North in association with ROH2 and Watford Palace Theatre.

Co-commissioned by The Opera Group and ROH2.

Orchestral partner: CHROMA

What the critics say

Bruce's vividly coloured chamber score skims the Pacific rim for influences, combining gamelan crashes and plunky pentatonics with the incongruous wheeze of an accordion to create a beguiling, imaginary hybrid of Indo-European folk music. The cast are all engaging comic performers as well as fine singers: Mary Bevan's Lila has a gung-ho tendency to leap before she looks; Andrew Slater is delightful as the hapless Rambashi, whose career plans as a pirate and caterer come to nought; James Laing's ethereal countertenor seems curiously suited to the plight of a pining white elephant.

The Guardian - Full Review ›

The cast of five is uniformly excellent and the performance is extremely well sung amid the adventure and the nonsense. Nowadays operas so often disappear without trace after their first run, but I am confident that The Firework Maker’s Daughter will return soon and often.

What's On Stage - Full Review ›

The show is part The Magic Flute, part The Wizard of Oz and with an audience-involving ending straight out of Peter Pan. Its pentatonic melodies are evocative of the Far East, too; yet the big numbers are more like wild, Irish-jig stomps. And to titillate grown-up listeners the musical allusions also pay homage to everything from Purcell, Stravinsky and Britten to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.

The Times - Full Review ›

In this huge-hearted, fast-moving caper there is shadow-puppetry, stilt-walking, mild peril, cardboard fish and a cardboard boat (designs by Dick Bird, puppets by Steve Tiplady and Sally Todd). The pyrotechnics come from magic markers, oil and water, craftbox glitter and two overhead projectors; the enchantment from the energy of the performers, the ingenuity of Guy Hoare's lighting, and the beauty of Bruce's music.

The Independent - Full Review ›

The vocal writing, sometimes echoing Britten in The Turn of the Screw without the ghosts, has moments of strong emotional truth. Many a parent, enjoying themselves thoroughly, may bewail the short attention span of their offspring who perhaps have no patience for magic lanterns or shadow puppets. But the mournful, lovesick crooning of a countertenor elephant may touch them quite in spite of themselves. If so, they have tasted the first fruits of opera addiction.

The Observer - Full Review ›

Bruce deserves credit for never musically talking down to his audience. His eclectic, glittering score serves the narrative perfectly, reflecting Pullman’s non-specific Indo-Oriental locations. It’s very well played, each twist and turn skilfully negotiated by the ensemble Chroma under Geoffrey Paterson.

The Arts Desk - Full Review ›

  • Lila/ Goddess/ Young Girl Mary Bevan
  • Hamlet/ Pirate/ Ghost/ Firework 1 James Laing
  • Chulak/ Pirate/ Ghost/ Firework 2 Amar Muchhala
  • Lalchand/ Sprite/ Pirate/ Razvani Wyn Pencarreg
  • Rambashi/ Keeper/ Ghost/ King Andrew Slater
Creative Team
  • Composer David Bruce
  • Librettist Glyn Maxwell
  • Director John Fulljames
  • Conductor Geoffrey Paterson
  • Designer Dick Bird
  • Puppetry Steve Tiplady and Sally Todd of Indefinite Articles
  • Lighting Designer Guy Hoare
  • Orchestra CHROMA

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What you say

Comment from Vici Keighley


Vici Keighley said ago

Hi Derek, many thanks for your comments – we’re delighted with The Firework Maker’s Daughter too. This production gives us a fantastic opportunity to reach new people in new ways, particularly young people who may not ordinarily see opera. This means that, on this occasion, we won’t be visiting Leeds. We were able to share information on The Firework Maker’s Daughter with Friends in the January Friends e-bulletin. Please do forward me your email address so I can ensure you get this information going forwards. The monthly Friends e-bulletin includes special ticket offers, further production information and other ways to get involved. Do feel free to reach me by phone on 0113 223 711 or email (vici.keighley@operanorth.co.uk) and I’ll be happy to help. Kind regards,
Opera North Memberships Officer

Comment from Derek Howl


Derek Howl said ago

As a Friend of Opera North for many years I was delighted at the good reviews this got - but why no information for Friends, and no details of a Leeds production? Are we getting it later this year? If so, when? And if not, why not?

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