The long summer holiday is over. The children return excitedly to school with tales of foreign adventure and self discovery.

But one boy, Pierre, has uncovered something profoundly troubling about the universe, and his new-found nihilism takes them all on a journey into darkness.

David Bruce’s new opera, based on Janne Teller’s novel, is magnificent as it is unsettling.

The rich score illustrates every emotional switchback from the happy-go-lucky, to suspicion, self-doubt, euphoria, conformity, rebellion, that is the roller coaster ride of adolescence.

Referencing a wide range of musical genres from plainsong to jazz, Bruce builds his own “great pile of meaning” and sets it against Pierre’s almost monotone, but nevertheless musically beguiling, insistence on “nothing.”

Glyn Maxwell’s searching libretto brilliantly picks up the ticks of teen-speak: “Life matters big time,” as well as doing a nice line in bathetic solipsism: as a girl casts her new African parrot earrings onto the bonfire of meaning, she worries that it will be all her fault if the parrots now die out.

At the heart of 30 years’ pioneering work by its education department, the Glyndebourne Youth Opera are astonishing.

While this will be a formative experience for them, so too should it prove for the team of professionals lucky enough to work with them.

Five stars