In the Wings

Backstage glimpses with Boston Lyric Opera


Oct 25, 2017 12:57:34 PM
By Lacey Upton

You’ve read their official bios, but who are Julian Grant and Mark Campbell, really? Read on for some fun facts and tidbits about the composer and librettist of The Nefarious, Immoral but Highly Profitable Enterprise of Mr. Burke & Mr. Hare.

LizaVollPhotography-9171.jpgJulian Grant & Mark Campbell. Photo by Liza Voll.


  • Grant was born in London, England; his father was a Yugoslavian refugee, and his mother’s family is from the north of England. “I don’t know where the music comes from, the music just kind of happened,” he laughed. “I spent most of my misspent teenage years listening to opera recordings.”
  • Grant has written 18 operas of various lengths and styles, including The Skin Drum, which won the 1988 National Opera Association of America’s biennial chamber opera competition and received a semi-staged performance to launch the English National Opera’s Contemporary Opera Studio in 1990.
  • Grant has lived, worked, and composed in Hong Kong, Beijing, and Japan. While living in Beijing, he worked with the Beijing New Music Ensemble and attempted to master the Yang Qin (Butterfly Harp).
  • From 2002–07, Grant was the Music Director of St. Paul’s Girls’ School in West London, a position previously held by luminaries including Gustav Holst and Ralph Vaughan Williams.
  • Grant has lived in America since 2010, in Princeton, NJ, and New York.
  • Grant and his partner, Peter Lighte, have two daughters, who are now in college, and a dog. “The dog is really the only person who understands me,” he joked.
  • When not composing, Grant loves to visit art galleries and is a movie buff.
  • Listen to clips of Grant’s music on Soundcloud.

LizaVollPhotography-9201 - web - MJBH.jpg

Julian & Mark with the actors playing Burke & Hare - Jesse Blumberg & Craig Colclough. Photo by Liza Voll.



  • Mark Campbell graduated from the University of Colorado in theater and dance, intending to be an actor. “But I found out pretty early that I wasn’t any good,” he laughed.
  • Campbell began writing lyrics almost by accident—he was dating a composer at the time who needed words for a musical theatre piece he was working on about the last days of the Romanovs. “A real toe-tapping musical, as you can imagine,” Campbell remembered. He wrote a lot of lyrics for musical theatre in his early career, which he believes taught him discipline and craft.
  • In 1990, Campbell was selected for the first Kleban Foundation Award for Lyricist by Stephen Sondheim, a big step in his early career.
  • His first full-length opera was Volpone, with composer John Musto, which premiered at Wolf Trap Opera in 2004. Its success led to three other collaborations with the composer: Later the Same Evening (2007), Bastianello (2008), and The Inspector (2011), which BLO performed in 2012 at the Shubert Theatre.
  • Campbell’s best known work is Silent Night, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Music for composer Kevin Puts in 2012.
  • Campbell’s mother was a painter, a fact that has a nice resonance in his own artistic life today—he has written three operas about painters, including a current commission for Opera Paralléle about a pivotal moment in the life of Georgia O’Keefe, with co-librettist and filmmaker Kimberly Reed and composer Laura Kaminsky.
  • Campbell is one of the most prolific and successful librettists of today, with more than 15 librettos written and five new premieres in 2017.
  • Stephen Tracy, who runs a successful candle company named Keap, is Campbell’s husband. They live in the West Village of New York City and dream of having a wire-haired dachshund.
  • The vast majority of Campbell’s librettos have been written in Provincetown, MA, during January or February. It’s been a favorite writing retreat since 2002.
  • When not writing (which is rare!), Campbell enjoys attending classical music concerts and experiencing a different side of music.

Buy Burke & Hare tickets now:


Topics: living composers, new works, 2017/18 Season, Burke & Hare, #BurkeBLO, living librettists

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