News - Gaelic culture

Opera for the masses

Gaelic culture to be showcased across Europe.

Words: Allan Radcliffe

One of Scotland’s most spectacular locations is to be celebrated in a unique European theatre production. Five simultaneous performances of St Kilda - A European Opera (Mac-Talla Nan Eun) will take place in France, Belgium, Germany, Austria with a Scottish performance taking place at Studio Alba on Stornoway on Friday 22 and Saturday 23 June. The BBC will also broadcast the event via a live webcast.

This international theatre extravaganza, which received the maximum grant of€885,000 euros from the European Commission’s Culture 2000 fund, represents an important showcase for Gaelic language and culture. Each of the five performances will feature traditional Gaelic singers performing against the backdrop of a dizzying film of the French vertical dance company, Retouramont, performing a dramatic aerial ballet from the Hebridean cliffs, which, at 1394 feet, are taller than the Empire State building. The film was shot by Keith Partridge, director of Touching the Void. The five productions will also share a script and libretto by Iain Finlay Macleod, though each venue will imbue the material with its own distinct interpretation.

Co-producer Malcolm Maclean, of Proiseact nan Ealan in Scotland says of the project, ‘The St Kilda event reconnects the ancient Celtic heartlands of Hallstatt in central Europe with the continent’s extreme outer reaches. It also reminds us that the Celtic languages, such as Gaelic, were once heard all across Europe and retain a fascination for European audiences.’
St Kilda, which lies in the Atlantic, 50 miles due west of the Hebrides, is the only site in the UK to have been twice designated UNESCO World Heritage Site and is Europe’s most important seabird colony with more than a million birds. The island was occupied for 3000 years until the final residents were evacuated in 1930.

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