(From the Gloucestershire Echo, 8 October 2001.)

Jaz Works On New Opera

CHELTENHAM-born composer Jaz Coleman first shot to fame as a rock star with the punk band Killing Joke.

But now the 41 -year-old is looking forward to achieving one of the greatest ambitions of any classical musician.

His opera - The Marriage at Cana - will be given its world premiere at the Royal Opera House in Covent Garden.

Well-heeled music lovers are expected to turn out in force when the new oratorio gets its first airing on December 9.

But after the opera is finished Jaz Coleman plans to get Killing Joke back together and return to life as a rock star.

Mr. Coleman, a former pupil at Bournside School, is currently in Prague, in the Czech Republic, where he is working 20-hour days to finish the 90 minute opera.

He said: "I am going like the clappers. I am writing this and doing a concerto as well.

"When I am on a big job like this it is head down till it is done, and no days off.

"I will be working on the opera until next month."

Mr. Coleman has not visited Cheltenham since the spring, but says the town means a lot to him.

He says: "Cheltenham's a big, big part of my life and my upbringing. Incredible things happened like meeting Brian Jones as a child."

His mother Gloria Coleman, 70, still lives in Charlton Kings, where Mr Coleman grew up.

She said: "He has made good in a way that amazes me. He was a very good rock musician, and now this."

The Marriage at Cana is based on Bloodline of the Holy Grail, a bestselling book by author Laurence Gardner.

Mr. Gardner wrote the libretto for the new opera.

It gives a new spin on the story of the Biblical figure Mary Magdalene.

It portrays her as a devoted follower of Jesus, rather than her more traditional image as a fallen woman.

For Mr. Coleman it is about as far as possible from his musical roots.

Last year he teamed up with violinist Nigel Kennedy to produce Riders on the Storm, a new concerto based on the music of The Doors.

He is now resident conductor of the Prague Philharmonic Orchestra.