We try to let you know of performances of Stephen’s works; if you know of one not listed here, please let us know and we’ll include it. Use the Contacts section to write to us about anything related to Stephen’s life and work.

“Friendships in Constant Repair: Perspectives on the Life and Work of Stephen Oliver”

This book was ‘editor’s choice’ in Classical Music Magazine and listed as one of the books of the year in Classic FM Magazine. It was also reviewed by Rodney Milnes in the March, 2011 Opera magazine.

In addition to a biography of Stephen’s unusual early life and school days, the book includes wonderful reminiscences and quotes from many eminent people in the Arts world. There are also over 30 photographs and transcripts of two interviews with Stephen. There are examples of his own brilliant writing plus a CD of him talking and singing.

Stephen’s enormous talent in music and literature, generosity to others, keen wit and wonderful sense of humour, make this a must-read book for anyone interested in music, theatre and the arts—or anyone interested in simply exploring the concept of friendship or an approach to dealing with a terminal illness in the prime of life.

Ruth and James Oliver say: “We have experienced a wide range of emotions and remembrances as we have compiled our brother’s story. We have shed tears and laughed out loud, and in learning more about his extraordinary life, we have in turn learnt more about ourselves. We hope that all who read this book will enjoy something of the same experience.”

The £20 hardback book (ISBN 978-184876-534-4) is now available from UK booksellers and can be ordered from this website. BOOKS ORDERED ON THIS WEBSITE ARE SOLD AT 25% DISCOUNT i.e. £15 plus £3 p&p per book. Use the ‘Buy Now’ button below to place an order via PayPal and click ‘Pay by Debit or Credit Card’ if you don’t have a PayPal account.

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Andrew Green’s four star review in the Classical Music Magazine (23rd October, 2010) says:

“Nearly two decades after his death and published to mark the 60th anniversary of his birth comes this variegated collection of writings in memory of the extraordinary Stephen Oliver. His output as a composer was staggering enough, most notably of course opera and musical theatre, but he was also a natural broadcaster, writer, lecturer and even actor, cramming his all-too-short life with contributions to the cultural body politic. And as the Samuel Johnson quotation in the book title is intended to indicate, Oliver took friendship and its responsibilities as seriously as anything else.

Friends indeed contribute much to this compilation, the devoted work of Oliver’s brother and sister. The memories go back to early years, including his time as a St Paul’s Cathedral chorister, when the already precocious early talent blossomed. We sample 0liver’s own authentic voice talking about his life in conversation with Paul Griffiths and then German journalist Werner Bleisteiner, before moving on to a transcript of a legendary Radio 3 One Pair of Ears review of a week’s broadcasting – deliciously written in rhyming couplets. Both this and the Bleisteiner interview also appear (along with examples of Oliver as witty songwriter/performer) on a bonus CD which adds greatly to the overall package. 

Among the household names contributing memories are Tim Rice (on his collaboration with Oliver on the strangely underperformed musical Blondel), Simon Callow (musing on Oliver’s gift for graceful bluntness), Graham Vick, Jonathan Dove and Jane Glover, whose close friendship with Oliver began at Oxford and flourished ever thereafter. There are contributions from Oliver’s doctor and the nurse with him when he died of an Aids-related illness. His ashes were scattered at Batignano, the medieval Tuscan hill village graced so often, as we read, by his operas. Finally comes a transcript of the 1992 celebration of Oliver’s life at St Paul’s Covent Garden, including his setting of the Horatian lines embracing the legendary motto Carpe Diem. I hope that the truly gigantic concluding list of works and the book as a whole will encourage an ‘Oliver Revival’. He probably would have chortled at the thought.”

Ardingly College Musician of the Year

After Stephen died in 1992, amongst his possessions we found a large blue Trophy box containing this crystal Rose Bowl. He had never mentioned it and we had no idea who had awarded it. Stephen’s mother did some research and it transpired that it was the Wavendon AllMusic Award presented to Stephen on 17th January, 1991 at the Banqueting House by HRH Princess Margaret. Stephen used the occasion to make an impassioned speech about the state of music education in UK schools.

Now the trophy is back at Stephen’s old school, Ardingly College where it is awarded to annually to the ‘Musician of the Year’.

Lady Jane CD at last!

We receive more enquiries about the soundtrack to the film Lady Jane than any other of Stephen’s works! 

Thanks to the good works of Tadlow Music and Quartet Records, there is at last a recording available….and what a recording! This is a double CD of the original recording played by the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Harry Rabinowitz. It comes with a lengthy and fascinating booklet about the background to the piece.

To purchase this newly issued double CD, go to

Stephen Oliver Trust

What is The Stephen Oliver Trust?

When Stephen Oliver died, he left the bulk of his estate in Trust to provide funds to help young composers of opera and small scale opera companies. He was already doing this in his lifetime and many chamber opera performances would simply not have happened without his support. With his own composing, Stephen had a gift for writing the piece d’occasion, even ready to compose a full-scale opera on a given subject. He did not subscribe to the reverential vision of art for art’s sake and saw himself as a craftsman – as indeed did most composers before the arrival of Wagner. Thus, Stephen’s work ranged from the opera Timon of Athens, to the RSC’s award-winning Nicholas Nickleby and the West End musical Blondel.

At the time of the foundation of the Trust in March 1993, its funds were supplemented by a number of generous donations and covenants.

The primary aims of the Trust are:

to encourage the creation, promotion and performance of contemporary opera, 

to encourage young people working in contemporary opera. 

The trustees are composer Jonathan Dove, conductor Jane Glover CBE, designer and director Adam Pollock and the Chief Executive of Norwich Theatre Royal, Peter Wilson MBE. 

In 2006, the trustees decided to incorporate the capital funds within the Countess of Munster Musical Trust and details of how young composers can continue to apply for awards can be found on:        

What the Trust achieved prior to incorporation within Countess of Munster Musical Trust

It was a desire to keep alive Stephen’s particular approach to composition that led to the foundation of The Stephen Oliver Prize. The prize was a biennial award of ten thousand pounds sterling, given to a young composer for a new work of comic opera. The inaugural 1994 Prize was launched with a special concert of Stephen’s symphony and cantata The Vessel, conducted by Jane Glover at the BBC’s Maida Vale studios in June 1993 and recorded for later broadcast. The text for the first Prize Competition was entitled Travellers and was provided by A.N.Wilson, the novelist with whom Stephen collaborated on the masque Britannia Preserved. This first prize, awarded in 1994, was won by David Horne. The second Oliver Prize in January 1996 was to a text set by David Edgar, The Bridge. It was judged by a panel including the distinguished composer Sir Harrison Birtwistle, together along with the four trustees. The prize winner was Tim Benjamin from the Royal Northern College of Music (RNCM). The runner-up was Laurence Kubiak. During 1997/98 the Trust then worked with both the Royal Northern College of Music and the 1998 BOC Covent Garden Festival to achieve performances of the winning operas of the two competitions. In March 1998, RNCM in Manchester performed the world premiere of Tim Benjamin’s winning opera The Bridge, partially supported by the Trust. In June 1998 two professional performances of both Travellers and The Bridge were presented in London as part of the 1998 Covent Garden, Festival, supported by the Trust. 

While at first the Trust concentrated on running the first two Oliver Prize competitions, it subsequently focused on supporting both the composition and occasional performances of a number of contemporary opera companies in the UK. These included: 

Music Theatre Wales for the tour of Flowers (1993)

Major Road towards the tour of The Bottle Imp (1994)

Firefly Enterprises towards the production of Agongo (1994)

Towards the work of Opera Lab (1995)

Mecklenburgh Opera for the production of Passion Killers at the Young Vic (1995)

Jigsaw Music Theatre for the production of Funny Shorts (1995)

The BOC Covent Garden Festival for a production of the Stephen Oliver Trilogy (1996)

Mecklenburgh Opera for their double bill at the 1996 Covent Garden Festival

Music Theatre Wales towards the composition of In The House of Crossed Desires (1996)

Jigsaw Music Theatre for the tour of the triple bill Perfectly Poisonous (1997)

The Clod Ensemble for the preparation of a tape of the company’s work (1997)

Music Theatre Wales for UK tour of Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Punch & Judy (1998)

Border Crossings towards the costs of producing Die Tote Stadt (1998)

Tete a Tete Productions for Shorts at the Battersea Arts Centre (1999)

Cryptic Productions towards the costs of producing Something There at The Beckett Times Festival Glasgow (2000)

What can you tell us?

Please do use the ‘Contacts’ section of this website if you have information about Stephen Oliver performances. We will gladly publish the details in the ‘News’ section.

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