Stephen is one of Britain’s foremost librettists. He has worked extensively with Sir Harrison Birtwistle, most notably on The Io Passion (Aldeburgh and Bregenz Festivals 2004) and Angel Fighter (Bach Festival Leipzig 2010/ BBC proms 2011).
He has also worked with many other prominent composers, including Orlando Gough, Michael Zev Gordon. Luis Tinoco, Luke Styles and Joseph Phibbs. With the composer John Lunn, he completed a trilogy of youth operas for Glyndebourne – Misper (1997) Zoë (2000) (made into a film for Channel 4), and Tangier Tattoo (2005). This was followed at Glyndebourne by a hip-hop version of Mozart’s Così fan tutte, and then in 2013 by Imago, ‘an opera for the digital age’, which Stephen co-wrote with the composer Orlando Gough. It won a Royal Philharmonic Society Award.
In 2007 Stephen co-created the community opera The Finnish Prisoner, with Orlando Gough and the director Susannah Waters. The opera was set during the Crimean War. The townspeople of Lewes were invited to play their ancestors, and members of Finnish National Opera chorus played the prisoners who had been incarcerated in the town in 1856.
Future projects include Amy, a mainstage work for Swedish Royal Opera with Rolf Martinsson, and an operatic version of Chaucer’s The Merchant’s Tale with the composer Julian Philips. Stephen has been Writer in Residence at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama since 2014.