1992 – Listen to the Earth – ABOUT

Listen to the Earth

Commissioned by W11 Opera in 1992

Synopsis: The opera’s theme is the disintegration of the natural world seen through the eyes of two inquisitive children. They watch as a series of false gods, greed, ambition, envy, impatience, wastefulness cruelty and apathy, tempt the inhabitants of the earth away from Gaia, guardian of the earth. There seems to be no hope for mankind until Gaia appears just in time, warning of the dangers we face if we neglect our environment but ending on a note of hope if we learn it is not to late to reverse the destruction.

Composer Steve Gray  
Librettist Sarah Shuckburgh
Music Director Wayne Marshall
Soloists Nature, Wisdom, Peter, Grace, Greed, Ambition, Envy, Impatience, Wastefulness, Cruelty, Apathy, Gaia, Speedo
Groups Nature, Consumers, Peasants, Loggers, Tycoons, TV Stars, Rubbish, Oil Slicks
Orchestra Violin I, Violin II, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, Flute, Saxophone, Bassoon, Keyboards, Percussion, Copyist

Notes on Production: An ecological fable with universal moral appeal. Offers a range of imaginative opportunities for characters and scope for humour in design representing “rubbish”, “oilslicks”, “Apathy” etc.

Musically it has a straightforward contemporary-classsical style, with swing and jazz rhythms setting the scene for individual characters. There is some part singing and some dialogue.

LISTEN TO THE EARTH could be performed effectively with a single set and offers enormous scope for interactive costume design involving children’s own ideas. Age range 9-18 but could be performed easily by under 16 year olds.

Running time: 70 minutes.


The story of Listen the Earth can be seen as an allegory about good against evil. By personifying the earth, the opera shows how many threats to the earth can arise in our modern materialistic society, and how it is up to each one of us to think of the role we should play in preserving our environment. With the growing ecological movement, this is clearly a topical and important message which can also clearly be seen in a Christian context. Jesus’ message to us all was to resist greed, envy and selfishness, and to care for one another and for the world which God created for us.

Act One

The opera opens with the sounds of creation, and we watch as a natural world evolves. Humans appear and live happily as peasants and loggers in harmony with nature. The whole cast sings about the tolerance and cooperation and of listening to Gaia, the guardian of the earth.


But we now discover that this idyllic scene is just part of a make believe story which is being told by an OLD MAN to his two grandchildren GRACE and PETER. The old man who represents wisdom tells the children that the real world is not like that, the children wish to know more, so the grandfather suggests that they join the story and try to find out for themselves what happens next.

Act Two

Grace and Peter watch as a succession of false gods tempt the loggers away from Gaia and encourage them to pollute and destroy the natural world. The first four false gods are GREED AMBITION ENVY and IMPATIENCE with them come the unscrupulous TYCOONS and glittering TV STARS. The natural world is rapidly disappearing and Gaia is forgotten. The act ends as the old man seeing wisdom failing all around him falls asleep in his chair.

Act Three

The disintegration of the natural world accelerates as more false gods enter. The first is WASTEFULNESS, with a dustbin full of RUBBISH, next, CRUELTY appears with his gang of OIL SLICKS, menacing and ruthless thugs, who spread pollution.

AT the climax of the opera, PETER and GRACE are grabbed by the OIL SLICKS. The OLD MAN rushes to save them, and is killed. Wisdom is dead.

The final false god is APATHY. Nobody cares about wisdom or the natural world, and there seems to be no hope for mankind in the resulting pandemonium.

Act Four

Now Gaia appears for the first time. She is angry and fierce, and warns of the dangers to the human race of continuing to neglect the earth.

But the opera ends on a note of hope: perhaps it is not too late for us to prevent our self-destruction.


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