Five:15 in twenty:10

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Five:15 in twenty:10

Miriama Young

The state of the economy is never far from the headlines these days, but as an opera subject it is somewhat unexpected. Not so in Scottish Opera’s latest batch of five short new operas. For the third year of the company’s bold commissioning strand, FIVE:15 in twenty:10, themes range from isolation to spirituality, Zen philosophy to the aforementioned economy, this latter endlessly fascinating topic given a satirical slant by writer Ron Butlin and composer Lyell Cresswell.

Like Cresswell, the first woman composer to be featured in the Five:15 portfolio is a New Zealander. Currently a lecturer in music at Aberdeen University, Miriama Young teams up with colleague Alan Spence, director of the city’s Word Festival, which hosts the opening performances in mid-May. Their story is based on a Japanese parable in which a young girl finds herself pregnant, confiding to her parents that the father is the Zen master Hakuin. ‘He takes this in his stride,’ explains Young, ‘and when the baby is born, he takes ownership, but the girl finally concedes it was some other dude and the parents plead to get the baby back. The monk accepts this, so the story is about letting everything wash over you, about accepting whatever comes your way.’

Young’s music alludes to the east and sounds of the temple through its sonorities and, in particular, use of bells. The challenge for her as a composer of such a short opera is, she says, ‘to bring some of the drama that full-length opera can convey in a piece that is satisfying and convincing. I think it’s a brilliant idea. For a composer, you might be commissioned to write a two-hour-long opera, which will take three years to complete. This way you can try the medium and get a taste for it’.

Scottish Opera, Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Thu 20, Fri 20 and Sat 22 May; Oran Mor, Glasgow, Tue 25, Wed 26 and Thu 27 May

Scottish Opera - Five:15

  • 4 stars

Following the success of last year's 'Five:15', Scottish Opera has again teamed up with some of Scotland's leading creative figures to produce a new set of 15-minute operas. All different in character, style and subject matter, they provide an informal introduction to where opera is headed in the 21st century. 'Part of…

Scottish Opera - Five:15

Following the success of last year's 'Five:15', Scottish Opera has again teamed up with some of Scotland's leading creative figures to produce a new set of 15-minute operas. All different in character, style and subject matter, they provide an informal introduction to where opera is headed in the 21st century. Tickets are…

Scottish Opera Five:15 Premiere

Following the success of last year's 'Five:15', Scottish Opera has again teamed up with some of Scotland's leading creative figures to produce a new set of 15-minute operas, which get their premiere as part of the Word festival. All different in character, style and subject matter, they provide an informal introduction to…

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