• pf [optional melody instruments, optional percussion]
  • 30 min
  • Stephen Oliver
  • English

Programme Note


Paid Off: The failed attempts of the Magicians to seduce the soldiers’ wives and make off with their gold.

Time Flies: The fate of a group of Flies and Spiders.

Old Haunts: The Wine Merchants have an unpleasant surprise when they are chased out of the house by the Drunk Ghosts (the Sighs and the Ticks), leaving the Lonely
Ghosts (the Ghouls and the Wails) howling disconsolately.


These three short children’s operas are designed either as classroom pieces or for public performance, and are intended to give children as immediate an operatic experience as possible, with the minimum of bother. Each opera lasts about 8-10 minutes, and each is scored for piano and a variety of optional tuned and untuned instruments and percussion.

Paid Off tells the story of a group of soldiers’ wives who, deploring the long absence of their husbands, agree to remarry some malevolent but amorous magicians. Just as they are giving their consent their soldier-husbands return, and the women plot with the magicians to get rid of them.

In Time Flies, the conflict is between the spiders and the flies. The latter are so busy grubbing in the dirt that they do not notice the web that is being formed around them by the spiders. Just as they are about to deliver the coup de grace, the spiders are horrified to hear the offstage voice of the house-cleaner, and in their panic become trapped in their own web. The flies are able to free themselves and fly to safety, only to be dealt a deadly blow by an aerosol spray. The spiders, still stuck in their web, begin to celebrate the absence of a domestic spider spray, but are unceremoniously swept off the stage by a battalion of brooms.

Old Haunts is set in a house where groups of lonely ghosts await the arrival of unsuspecting travellers. Among these unhappy spirits are the drunk ghosts, the shades of men that were murdered in the cellar, and who no haunt forever anyone who is kind enough to supply them with booze.

Unison voices, optional melody instruments, optional percussion and piano. For performance by children.