Only copy of new Berkeley opera stolen

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A LEADING British composer offered a reward last night after the only copy of an opera score he had been working on for a year was stolen from his car.

Michael Berkeley, 50, son of the composer Sir Lennox Berkeley and godson of Benjamin Britten, believes that the 55 pages of manuscript were taken as he unloaded his car after returning to his house in west London on Tuesday night. The score was to be set with libretto written by the Australian author David Malouf, and had been expected to be premiered at the Cheltenham International Festival next year.

"I had just got back from Wales where I had been working on the opera and I was unloading my car - getting the luggage and the dogs inside," said Mr Berkeley.

"As I was doing this, I realised that the manuscript had gone. It must have been taken as I was unloading. It must have been a sneak thief. Around here, people will break the glass on your car just to steal a polythene bag."

Mr Berkeley, who also works as a radio and television broadcaster, has composed a number of critically acclaimed works. He previously collaborated with Mr Malouf on Baa Baa Black Sheep, an opera based on the childhood of Rudyard Kipling. This was premiered at Cheltenham, being first performed in 1993

"It will be very hard to complete this now,' said Mr Berkeley. "Obviously I remember the main themes, but the notation and the intricate parts will be impossible to remember. I don't think I would be able to psyche myself up for it."

He explained: "The thing about composing is that getting the original idea is not difficult. The hard part is getting it from your head onto the paper. I'm offering several hundred pounds to get it back. There is nothing else I can do."

Mr Berkeley's publicist said last night that the performance at Cheltenham would have to be cancelled if the manuscript - contained in a large black portfolio - was not recovered.

Mr Berkeley studied composition, singing and piano at the Royal Academy of Music. He concentrated on composition in his late 20s when studying with the composer Sir Richard Rodney Bennett.