Profile: Scottish Opera - Scotland’s national opera company

  • The List
  • 7 November 2012
Profile: Scottish Opera - Scotland’s national opera company

credit: Mark Hamilton

Facts and statistics on Scottish Opera as it celebrates its 50th anniversary

What is it?

Founded in 1962 by Sir Alexander Gibson, Scotland’s national opera company celebrates its 50th anniversary in 2012/13. Not without its dramas off-stage as well as on-stage over the years, Scottish Opera is one of five national performing companies that are funded directly by the Scottish Government.

Where is it?

Its home is the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, where a £4.8m redevelopment project is underway with completion scheduled for 2014, in time for the Commonwealth Games. The company performs at the Edinburgh International Festival as well as presenting its main season in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness. Touring productions reach over 50 theatres, village halls and community centres throughout the country. Its education and outreach programme involves thousands of primary school children and offers many adult learning events and taster sessions.

But opera’s not cheap …

New Zealander Alex Reedijk joined the company as general director in 2006, a time of one of Scottish Opera’s many encounters with financial uncertainty. The company’s orchestra controversially changed working practice from full-time to part-time in 2010. Similarly, the full-time chorus was cut back in 2004 and is now entirely comprised of freelance singers.

Who’s in charge?

There have been only four music directors in the company’s 50 years, the present incumbent being Francesco Corti, who has been particularly successful in bringing Italian opera to Scottish audiences since his appointment in 2007. Richard Armstrong is notable as a past music director for the acclaimed Ring Cycle, which opened at the 2003 Edinburgh Festival, and the world premiere of James MacMillan’s Inés De Castro.

Other hits?

One of Scottish Opera’s most successful recent achievements is the Five: 15 operas initiative, a five-year research and development project, supported by Made in Scotland, to give opportunity to an up-and-coming generation of composers, librettists and directors.

Opera Highlights Trailer 2012

Scottish Opera: The Magic Flute

Mozart's classic tale of the search for love, wisdom and truth is also a complex allegory about Freemasonry, or something, but you don't need to know that in order to enjoy some of the freshest, most exhilarating music ever composed. Nicky Spence sings Tamino, the questing hero, and Mari Moriya the virtuosic role of Queen…

Scottish Opera: The Magic Flute Unwrapped

Some operas are pretty self-explanatory, but The Magic Flute has more layers than an unusually tall lasagne, and before being plunged into its mysteries it can help to know who's who. Scottish Opera's Unwrapped events introduce you to the principal characters and help you to get some bearings before you see the opera…

Scottish Opera: Werther

When Goethe wrote his classic 1774 novel The Sorrows of Young Werther he had no idea that, after he'd got over the love affair that inspired it, been to Italy, written some very sexy poems and generally moved on, he'd be plagued for the rest of his life by mooning fanboys who wanted to meet the creator of the first truly…

Scottish Opera: The Flying Dutchman

The Flying Dutchman wasn't the first opera Wagner wrote (that would be that not-very-often-performed The Fairies, if you can believe it) but it marked the moment that he broke away from the operatic conventions of his time and gained that heady touch of artistic megalomania that makes his work so riveting. Oddly enough…

Scottish Opera: Werther Unwrapped

Learn about Massenet's opera with this free, hour-long introduction to its characters and themes.

Scottish Opera: The Pirates of Penzance

The Pirates of Penzance was written in a hurry so that Gilbert & Sullivan could open it on Broadway and finally taste those sweet, sweet American royalties, but in spite of its mercenary origin it's one of the best-loved operettas ever written, a crazily sparkling farce with a bumbling but patriotic pirate crew, some…

Scottish Opera: Flying Dutchman Unwrapped

A free, hour-long introduction to Wagner's opera, with musical extracts and secrets of the staging.

Scottish Opera: Pirates Unwrapped

A free, hour-long peek backstage at the inner workings, characters, scenes and high points of The Pirates of Penzance.

Scottish Opera/RCS: A Midsummer Night's Dream

How do you turn Shakespeare into opera? It was all right for the likes of Verdi, who used translations; Benjamin Britten and Peter Pears used scissors, trimming the play into a singable form, adding one important line and generally insinuating the familiar Britten tropes of guilt and innocence. Here it's performed in a…

Scottish Opera: Arias, Duets and Ensembles

Nadine Livingston (soprano), Rosie Aldridge (mezzo-soprano) and Marcus Farnsworth (baritone) perform arias from Puccini, Mozart and Rossini. Part of St Andrews Voices.

Scottish Opera: La Traviata

A revival of the 2008 production of Verdi's classic tale. La Traviata tells the story of Violetta, who hopes to escape life as an escort after falling in love with Alfredo.

Scottish Opera: The Elephant Angel

Commissioned by Scottish Opera's Education department, The Elephant Angel tells the story of the friendship between Sheila the elephant and her keeper in the middle of the Belfast Blitz. With music by Gareth Williams and words by novelist Bernard MacLaverty and inspired by a true story. Children at each primary school the…

Scottish Opera: Highlights 2013

Highlights from Scottish Opera including music, stories and anecdotes from the company's history touring around Scotland. Featuring up-and-coming artists Katie Grosset, Eleanor Dennis, Duncan Rock, Gary Griffiths and Nicky Spence.