Opus Composition Schemes - Britten Sinfonia - Creative Learning


After 6 successful years of developing new compositional voices in our OPUS composition competitions, exciting changes are happening in 2021 – we’re moving from a single annual competition to a broader offering of two tiered programmes which will run throughout the year.

Our two new Opus schemes, Opus 1 and Magnum Opus, are development opportunities to help UK-based composers take the next step on their composing journey. The selected composers for both schemes will work closely with programme directors Joe Cutler and Dobrinka Tabakova, Britten Sinfonia musicians, and the wider Britten Sinfonia team to create new works for chamber ensemble for recording and performance, and develop their skills as composers and creatives in a holistic way.

You’ll find more information below about the schemes. We will accept one application per composer (for either Opus 1 or Magnum Opus), so you should consider which scheme will suit your current stage of compositional development and check that you are eligible in the ‘How to get involved’ section. Registration is for both schemes – you will be able to be specific in your application form.

Find out about Opus 1 here and find out about Magnum Opus here.

Opus Timeline

19 April – Registration deadline
26 April – Application deadline
May/June – Magnum Opus interviews (via Zoom)
7 June – Opus 1 selection announcement
10 or 11 July – Opus 1 first workshop
7 August – Opus 1 second workshop
18 September – Opus 1 recording day and Magnum Opus initial meeting
January 2022 – Magnum Opus first workshop
March 2022 – Magnum Opus second workshop
June/July 2022 – Magnum Opus third workshop and performance

How to get involved

The registration and application windows for Opus 1 and Magnum Opus have now closed.



We reviewed how our old model was working and thought we might be able to offer opportunities that are better suited to the needs of individual composers, and we hope that the composers whom we reach will recognise that, along with lots of other organisations, we’re trying to develop better and fairer systems. We might not get it absolutely right at first, but we’re committed to continuing our development and to making more steps in the right direction.

OPUS: a brief history

Britten Sinfonia has a history of innovation and excellence. Renowned for adventurous programming and a dynamic approach to performing, over our history we have aimed to expand the horizons of what an orchestra ‘could’ or ‘should’ be and of how people engage with us and our music-making. Britten Sinfonia is a major supporter of new composition and has commissioned over 200 pieces of new music. In 2013, we launched OPUS to further this vision with the goal of discovering an exciting new compositional voice. Throughout the competition’s history, we have sought applications from any unpublished composer, regardless of their age, experience or level of study.

Winners of the OPUS competition have been among the best up-and-coming compositional talents in the UK. The competition has always tried to widen the parameters, and we’ve challenged ourselves and our audience to discover new musical terrain and all the creative potential therein.

Those shortlisted have had the opportunity to write for a small ensemble of Britten Sinfonia players and receive guidance on their work from a guest composer; in 2018, we were delighted to be joined by Sir James MacMillan, who selected the chosen composers and mentored them through the OPUS process. This included a day of workshops with our players – an opportunity to hear their music live, perhaps for the first time – and, for the winner of the competition, a commission to be premiered in Britten Sinfonia’s award-winning At Lunch series in London and performed across the East of England.

In later competitions, the workshop day has also been open to the public: an opportunity to observe rehearsals and workshops, and follow online scores during the day. This allowed us to introduce an Audience Prize, voted for at the end of the workshops, which awarded an additional prize to the audience’s favourite piece, alongside the competition’s main reward.

We developed our Young OPUS event, offering secondary school pupils the opportunity to write a folk-inspired string quartet and receive a day of mentoring from Sir James MacMillan.

From the archive