Op. 22 - 'Space Opera - The Musical'

Opera Buffa in 5 Acts - libretto by Joe St.Johanser after the science fiction novel by Jack Vance

The opera was recorded at the Menuhin Hall with a professional cast under Neil Ferris in 2014 but has not yet had a premiere - we welcome enquiries from opera companies who might wish to mount a production of this witty and stylish contemporary opera buffa - which delighted the cast and orchestra at the recording. A sizeable sponsorship subsidy and guarantee can be made available for the premiere.

Download the libretto and peruse while listening to these tracks Download

Download the score Download

Download the vocal score Download

Cover art by Ronald Marc


Jack Vance is a highly acclaimed science fiction author. Frank Herbert has called him 'one of the greatest image makers of English letters'. Joe St.Johanser has adapted Vance's 1955 novel as a libretto for his fourth opera, endeavouring to retain Vance's wit, style and imagery and to render in music Vance's unique way of leaving his readers philosophically elevated, calm and filled with well-being.

Bit like a fine whisky.

Space Opera - The Musical - Synopsis

We are in an unspecific future, much like our own save that spaceships traverse a universe filled with alien life, much as ships nowadays cross the oceans to exotic foreign destinations. Dame Isabel Grayce, Secretary Treasurer of the Opera League, is a wealthy, aristocratic and eccentric grande dame. She is impressed by the exotic music performed by the Ninth Troupe of the Rlaru Ballet, exhibited by Captain Gondar, a Space Captain, haggard, haunted and piratical.


At the supper party after the ballet Bernard Bickel, eminent authority on symbological euphonics, famed space traveller and rackety raconteur, decries the possibility of Earth people understanding alien music or vice versa. The Rlaru ballet troupe mysteriously disappear.


Dame Isabel suspects Gondar of knavery and trickery but determines to take an Earth Opera troupe to perform to the aliens, as a matter of honour and cultural enlightenment. Roger Wool, nephew to Isabel, a likeable but foolish young fop, is horrified to discover his aunt intends to waste the money he hopes to inherit on such a venture, and is confounded when Bickel, the man he hopes will dissuade her, instead accepts from her a lucrative appointment as tour guide.



The spaceship 'Phoebus' is chartered, fitted out with a crew, a stage and loaded with the finest opera singers and orchestra. Roger encounters Madoc Roswyn, an alluring and mysteriously exotic young woman, and immediately falls head over heels for her. Madoc stows away on board 'Phoebus'. She is discovered and thrown in the brig. Roger is in big trouble with Dame Isabel.



Madoc is released from custody as she can relieve Dame Isabel's grievous space sickness. She dumps Roger and works her way round the ship's officers, endeavouring to get them to alter course for her secret destination, the planet Yan, whence she wishes to return.




Sirius Planet is visited. The sexy lady Commandant, Dyrus Bolzen, turns out to be an old flame of Bickel.


Beethoven's 'Fidelio' is presented to the native byzantaurs. Alas cultural signals are confused. A fiasco ensues, as the stage is stormed by enraged byzantaurs, eventually repelled by firehoses.


Planet Zade is visited. Mozart's 'Magic Flute' and Berg's 'Wozzeck' result in further unfortunate fiascos.





Madoc confesses her longing for Yan and the reasons for it. Dame Isabel is sympathetic. Planet Yan is visited. Madoc is devastated to discover Yan has returned to brute savagery. The ship is attacked and 'Phoebus' hurriedly lifts off to safety.

Gondart is evasive when ordered to set course for Planet Rlaru. He fears meeting again the people he has enslaved and cheated. He mutinies and is restrained by Roger. Planet Rlaru is visited. Wagner's 'Parsifal' is chosen to be presented to the Rlaru natives, who hijack the performance and bear Gondar away, bound and gagged.


The 'Phoebus' returns to Earth. On the journey Madoc and Roger are reconciled and pledge their love. Initially the opera chorus and ship's crew have their tails between their legs at the grand Press conference held on their return. But first Bickel and then Isabel put a philosophical and ultimately lighthearted spin on the experience. All sing a philosophical fugato finale 'They learned much from us and we from them. There were various levels of comprehension'.



This opera is eminently suitable for small opera companies. The music is sophisticated but not excessively difficult. Audiences are appreciative of the drama and the approachable music. The text selected for the libretto is pure Jack Vance - the story largely preserved. . The piece would make a good Christmas show, offering a sophisticated musical event - suitable for children and adults - rather than a pantomime

Extracts from the recording of the opera will be available on youtube

The duration of the work is 150 minutes. Forces required are 6 principal singers, a chorus of opera singers and spaceship crewpersons and a small orchestra.

The opera buffa is in five acts and lasts two and a half hours, not counting an interval.

SPACE OPERA - THE MUSICAL. Duration 150 minutes.

You can now purchase the 2 CD set and score via download from the Jack Vance website with Spatterlight Press. An interesting and musically thrilling piece .

Jack Vance website

For enquiries please email