FEBRUARY will be a very busy month for Urmston resident Philip Sweet.

Philip, of St Clements Fold in Urmston, is up to his eyes in the final preparations for the Manchester premiere of an opera that he has written.

The opera, The Sailors’ Farewell, will open at the Royal Northern College of Music on February 22, and is, in part, a tribute to the role of women in the Royal Navy.

Most of the female characters are named after women who actually served on board ship in the time of Nelson. As well as writing the libretto, Philip is also directing the production which is being staged by Manchester Universities Gilbert and Sullivan Society.

Philip said: “I was delighted when I was asked to direct this year’s production for MUGSS. I was a member myself nearly 40 years ago and it is a privilege to work again with such a creative and innovative group of people.

"I have designed the opera to be performed between acts one and two of the long established G&S favourite H.M.S. Pinafore and it shows what the crew of the ship – including the women – would be doing on a normal day at anchor in port.

"Very few people realise that in Nelson’s time most RN ships had some women on board, usually they were the wives of the senior warrant officers, but it was not uncommon for the wives of the ordinary matelots to accompany their husbands on voyages. There is documentary proof that several women were on board for some of the most important battles in seventeenth and eighteenth century naval history, including Trafalgar.

"It is a great opportunity for me to work on probably the largest stage in the north of England, with a company that enjoys challenges – they didn’t blink an eyelid when I asked for a radio controlled animatronic cat as one of my props.”

The show runs from February 22 until February 25 at 7:30 with a matinee on Saturday at 2:30. Tickets, priced from £5 to £12, are available from the RNCM box office on 0161 907 5555.