Scottish Opera has unveiled its 2023/24 Season, which includes a UK premiere, a Scottish premiere, a Scottish Opera Young Company double bill, and revivals of some of its most beloved productions. The Season promises to be a celebratory showcase of the power and beauty of opera.
Alex Reedijk, Scottish Opera General Director, said: ‘Following the ambition and achievement of our 60th Anniversary Season, we are thrilled to present a 61st Season of exciting premieres and cherished classics – performed across Scotland and continuing the Company’s reputation for high quality opera, artistic flexibility, and innovation.
‘Sir Thomas Allen’s much-loved, whimsical production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville returns this autumn and tours to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Aberdeen. Next is the UK premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Marx in London! directed by Stephen Barlow, a madcap comedy seeking to unearth the human side of the great theorist. To finish the Season, Verdi’s ever-popular La traviata returns in Sir David McVicar’s sumptuous production – adored around the world and now back home in Scotland.
‘Scottish Opera Young Company presents an innovative, immersive double bill of Henry McPherson’s Maud and Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley. Our partnership with Lammermuir Festival continues with Richard Strauss’ Daphne, which receives its Scottish premiere 85 years after its first performance. The French Collection offers the variety, innovation, and crowd-pleasing creations of France’s great composers of the 19th and 20th centuries. Opera Highlights, Pop-up Opera, and schools projects travel to all corners of the country, continuing our unabated dedication to bringing opera to everyone in Scotland. This Season you can also see productions that began their lives at Scottish Opera around the world, from Cardiff to Vancouver.
‘While times are hard for all right now, we are hugely proud of the standards of work achieved over recent years. We are immensely grateful for the loyal support of everyone who makes our work possible, and we hope that you find much to enjoy and look forward to welcoming you soon.’
Stuart Stratford, Scottish Opera Music Director, added: ‘There is so much to look forward to in this new season. I am particularly delighted to present the Scottish premiere of Daphne, a rarely performed work by Richard Strauss. It shows the composer at the height of his powers, and the orchestration is not just about the sonic power of seventy instruments but the subtle blending of all the different colour palettes. The singing roles are as virtuosic as the orchestral writing.
‘Jonathan Dove is one of Britain’s most successful international composers, and his Marx in London! is a brilliant satirical take on one of history’s most iconic and divisive thinkers, which gives real human understanding to all of the protagonist’s idiosyncrasies. It has a really poignant conclusion, relevant to us all today.
‘We are also thrilled to be reviving The Barber of Seville, this time in English, which promises only to strengthen the riotous hilarity of this comic masterpiece. An incredible, first rate cast features in La traviata, originally directed by Sir David McVicar, whose production of Il trittico blew audiences away earlier this year.’
A truly international line-up of singers appears throughout the season. Making their debuts with the Company are Ross Cumming, Paul Hopwood, Inna Husieva, Claire Barnett-Jones, Jerome Knox, Innocent Masuku, Simone McIntosh, Ji-Min Park and Katy Thomson.
There are welcome return visits from Katherine Aitken, Orla Boylan, Francis Church, Alasdair Elliott, Anthony Gregory, Catriona Hewitson, Thomas D Hopkinson, Heather Ireson, Samuel Dale Johnson, Jessica Leary, Hye-Youn Lee, Monwabisi Lindi, Jamie MacDougall, Andrew McTaggart, William Morgan, Colin Murray, Shengzhi Ren, Lucy Schaufer, Lea Shaw, Paula Sides, David Stout, Roland Wood, and Dingle Yandell.
Season 2023/24 Productions
Opening the season this September is the Scottish premiere of Richard Strauss’ Daphne. It forms part of the Opera in Concert series, curated by Scottish Opera Music Director, Stuart Stratford, who is passionate about introducing audiences to rarely performed works. Emma Jenkins (Opera Highlights 2022/23) directs this concert staging, featuring Hye-Youn Lee, Shengzhi Ren, Claire Barnett-Jones and Dingle Yandell, accompanied by The Orchestra of Scottish Opera. Originally premiered 85 years ago, this wistful one-act opera is loosely based on Greek mythology as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Euripides’ The Bacchae. Performed first at Theatre Royal Glasgow, Daphne will then go to St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington, in partnership with Lammermuir Festival, and to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh in December.
Daphne is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.
Sir Thomas Allen’s riotous production of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville, designed by Simon Higlett, opens in October at Theatre Royal Glasgow. First seen in 2007, this is the third time Scottish Opera has presented this delightful comedy, and it tours to Edinburgh, Inverness and Aberdeen. Stuart Stratford conducts Samuel Dale Johnson (Eugene Onegin and Pagliacci 2018) as the titular barber, with Anthony Gregory (Anthropocene 2019) and Simone McIntosh as Count Almaviva and Rosina. Also joining the cast are David Stout (Nixon in China 2020) as Doctor Bartolo, Dingle Yandell (Thérèse 2022) as Don Basilio and Inna Husieva as Berta.
This revival is sung in an English translation by Amanda Holden (Falstaff 2021), and tells the story of barber and fixer, Figaro, who is enlisted by Count Almaviva to woo the beautiful Rosina. However, he first has to deal with Rosina’s guardian Doctor Bartolo who keeps her under lock and key with the intent of marrying her himself.
The Barber of Seville is supported by The Scottish Opera Syndicate.
In February 2024, the UK premiere of Jonathan Dove’s Marx in London! takes place at Theatre Royal Glasgow, before transferring to Edinburgh. The production is directed by Stephen Barlow (who last worked with the Company on Dove’s Flight), with libretto by Charles Hart, and set designs by Yannis Thavoris.
David Parry conducts Roland Wood (Il trittico 2023) as Karl Marx, alongside Paula Sides and William Morgan, last seen together in 2022 in Scottish Opera’s five-star production of Candide. They are joined by Orla Boylan (Breaking the Waves 2020) Lucy Schaufer (The Diary of One Who Disappeared 2020), Alasdair Elliot (The Miserly Knight 2022), Jamie MacDougall (Il trittico 2023) and Paul Hopwood.
Originally written for the 200th Anniversary of Karl Marx’s birth, Marx in London! is set in 1871 over the course of a single summer’s day, and is an examination of the philosopher’s more human side. The spectre of communism might be haunting Europe, but Marx’s demons are far more mundane and closer to home, and his personal life is in chaos. Watched by a spy, chased by debt collectors, harried by his family (legitimate and not), and rescued repeatedly from financial ruin by Friedrich Engels, audiences can expect a madcap production filled with zany humour.
Marx in London! is supported by The Alexander Gibson Circle and Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle.
Audiences in Glasgow, Inverness, Aberdeen, and Edinburgh have the chance to experience a revival of Sir David McVicar’s La traviata in May and June 2024. This treasured production, which began life at Scottish Opera in 2008, has frequently been seen at the houses of co-producers Teatro Real Madrid, Gran Teatre del Liceu, and Welsh National Opera.
Stuart Stratford conducts Hye-Youn Lee (Carmen 2023) in the role of courtesan Violetta Valéry who throws herself into a doomed love affair with the idealistic Alfredo, sung by Ji-Min Park. Set in hedonistic Paris during the Belle Époque, the luscious design of this devastating Verdi tragedy is by Tanya McCallin. Reviving Sir David McVicar’s original production is director is Leo Castaldi.
La traviata is supported by Scottish Opera’s ‘Play a Supporting Role’ Appeal.
In March 2024, Stuart Stratford conducts The French Collection. Few cities saw as much innovation and creative output in opera as Paris did during the 19th century. With three major opera houses and composers from France and further abroad vying for a coveted premiere at one (or more) of them, French opera contains a vast variety of musical and dramatic styles as its artists pushed boundaries on stage and in the pit. This concert includes excerpts from some of the era’s grandest and most beloved operas as well as its rarer gems that deserve a second hearing, including works by Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod and Jules Massenet.
The Orchestra of Scottish Opera captures the vivacity and grandeur of this uniquely brilliant musical epoch, accompanying a first rate group of singers to be announced later this year. This night of romance, drama and beautiful music will be performed in Caird Hall, Dundee and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.
The French Collection is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.
Opera Highlights goes on the road again visiting 35 venues around Scotland, in a vibrant new production directed by Laura Attridge (The Miserly Knight and Mavra 2022) with designs by the internationally renowned Ana Inés Jabares-Pita.
The troupe of talented singers performing in this one-of-a-kind show are Katy Thomson, Katherine Aitken, Innocent Masuku and Jerome Knox in the autumn production, which travels to Giffnock, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Strathmiglo, Newtonmore, Lossiemouth, Ardross, Thurso, Lochinver, Arisaig, Seil Island, Tillicoultry, Glasgow, Dumfries, Crawfordjohn, Maybole, and Musselburgh.
In the spring, Scottish Opera’s 2023/24 Emerging, and Associate, Artists Inna Husieva, Lea Shaw, Monwabisi Lindi and Ross Cumming tour to Greenock, Stirling, Ardrishaig, Blairgowrie, Peterhead, Aboyne, Strathpeffer, Tongue, Stornoway, Poolewe, Dornie, Ballachulish, Tobermory, Johnstone, Middleton, Duns, St Andrews and Largs.
Accompanying them on piano are Music Directors Toby Hession (autumn) and James Longford (spring).
Opera Highlights is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera, Forteviot Charitable Trust and Jimmie Cairncross Charitable Trust.
Scottish Opera Young Company
This July at Scottish Opera’s Production Studios in Glasgow, Barrfields Theatre in Largs and Stirling’s Albert Halls, four immersive performances of Henry McPherson’s Maud, and Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley, will be performed by Scottish Opera’s Young Company, directed by Flora Emily Thomson. Aged 17 to 21, the 11 members of the Company rehearse throughout the year with Artistic Director Chris Gray, who also conducts, to present this thought-provoking double bill, which moves between centuries. The operas are connected by a single Hebridean-inspired set, designed by Finlay McLay.
Maud, by composer, improviser and teacher, Henry McPherson, is a modern retelling of a traditional folk tale. It received its premiere in 2018 at Glasgow’s SWG3 as a winner of Scottish Opera’s Opera Sparks competition.
It is performed alongside composer Kurt Weill’s and librettist Arnold Sundgaard’s magical and menacing folk-inspired opera Down in the Valley, a bittersweet coming-of-age tale showing the light and darkness of one claustrophobic community.
Scottish Opera Young Company offers young singers a unique and practical introduction to the world of opera and the chance to develop their talent through a year-long programme, working with a range of opera professionals. The Company most recently premiered Gareth Williams’ and Johnny McKnight’s acclaimed production of Rubble last summer.
Maud and Down in the Valley are supported by Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle, Scottish Opera’s Education Angels, the Leverhulme Trust, Professor Richard Rose and Gordon Fraser Charitable Trust.
This summer Scottish Opera’s popular Pop-up Opera tour kicks off on 27 May at the Dumfries and Galloway Arts Festival, with 30-minute shows for all the family, including A Little Bit of Die Fledermaus and A Little Bit of Eugene Onegin.
Experience opera on a miniature scale with performances brought to life by a storyteller, singers, instrumentalists, narration and colourful illustrations. Touring to Sanquhar, Moniaive, Linlithgow, Blantyre, Springburn, Stornoway, Dornoch, Strathpeffer, Cruden Bay and Dundee, schoolchildren can also look forward to the tour popping up in primary schools across these locations for free performances of Puffy MacPuffer and the Crabbit Canals, which has narration by Allan Dunn, music and lyrics by Marion Christie and illustrations by Iain Piercy.
An ideal opportunity for anyone new to opera to try a taster of these classics by Strauss II and Tchaikovsky, a series of colourful illustrations help guide audiences through the plot. Cleverly re-scored by Scottish Opera’s former Head of Music, Derek Clark, they are performed by storyteller Allan Dunn alongside singers Jessica Leary and Andrew McTaggart, cellists Andrew Drummond Huggan and Sonia Cromarty, and guitarists Sasha Savaloni and Ian Watt (Ainadamar 2022).
Pop-up Opera is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera and JTH Charitable Trust.
The Scottish Opera Emerging Artists programme offers young talent a period of full-time work with the Company to help launch their careers. This season they include returning mezzo-soprano Lea Shaw (Il trittico 2023) as Associate Artist, along with Ukrainian soprano Inna Husieva, South African tenor Monwabisi Lindi, and Scottish baritone Ross Cumming. The costume trainee and repetiteur are still to be announced.
Emerging Artist singers perform in a number of this season’s productions and tours, and in recitals at the University of Glasgow and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland. They are supported by Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artist Benefactors and Elizabeth Salvesen.
Scottish Opera Education and Outreach
In spring and summer 2024, the ever-popular Primary Schools Tour for children in primaries five to seven is the newly created show Vikings! The Quest for the Dragon’s Treasure. Vikings! can be facilitated with an in-person workshop day led by Scottish Opera teaching artists, with full rental of props and costumes, or entirely within the classroom by teachers themselves. In both, teachers receive materials in advance.
How The Dragon Was Made is an interactive performance project for all 27 Confucius Institute classroom hub schools, designed to explore Chinese culture and language through music and visual arts. Senior primary classes use the digital resources to create their own performances that introduce one of China’s most ancient folk tales to the youngest pupils.
This year, Scottish Opera also offers teaching resources for Secondary School pupils. Having worked alongside Largs Academy to develop the materials suitable for young people, The Elixir of Love: Three Ways to Stage an Opera is a free teaching resource for teachers. Pupils will learn about music, drama, and art and design – incorporating elements of history, storytelling, and critical thinking – as they explore Donizetti’s comedy through three interpretations.
Scottish Opera continues to offer its Memory Spinners project for those living with dementia. The free project uses music, storytelling, movement, and visual arts to help Glasgow-based people living with dementia get creative and form new support networks. Throughout each eight-week term, they share memories that are then incorporated into a relaxed performance for friends and family.
Memory Spinners is supported by The RS MacDonald Charitable Trust, Sylvia Aitken Charitable Trust, Bellahouston Bequest Fund, Trades House of Glasgow (Commonwealth Fund), and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.
The ground-breaking online programme, Breath Cycle, was formed with the Respiratory and Cystic Fibrosis Medicine team at NHS Glasgow. Designed to benefit those living with conditions affecting lung health – particularly Long COVID – free resources introduce participants to vocal exercises and breathing techniques. The response is overwhelmingly positive, with participants citing improvement in breathing, energy levels and mood. To find out more, please visit our website, where you can access a series of short tutorials and exercises, or sign up for weekly online sessions and song writing workshops.
‘The Covid Composer’s Songbook’, a selection of songs written by Breath Cycle participants, has been recorded for anyone to use and enjoy. Visit Scottish Opera’s website to download the full collection.
Supported by The Scottish Government, Cruach Trust, The Murdoch Forrest Charitable Trust, W M Mann Foundation, Souter Charitable Trust and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels
Scottish Opera continues its fruitful partnership with Disney Musicals in Schools. Collaborating with primary schools with no previous engagement with the arts and often facing a range of social and economic challenges, teaching artists guide pupils through rehearsals for special adaptations of Disney musicals and provide training for teachers to build their pupils’ skills and confidence through performance arts, creating a sustainable arts legacy for the future. The Company recently worked with Disney and pupils from St Anthony’s Primary School in Renfrewshire, to present the first official Frozen kids show outside of America. The performance was part of a three-day workshop with over 600 pupils from 11 schools who performed songs from Aladdin, The Jungle Book and The Lion King as well as Frozen.
Scottish Opera’s Opera in Schools programme is supported by Harbinson Charitable Trust, David & June Gordon Memorial Trust, Hayward Sanderson Trust, Scottish Opera’s Education Angels and JTH Charitable Trust.
Places are available in Scottish Opera’s Community Choir, open to adults of all ages and conducted by Katy Lavinia Cooper, which starts up again in September. The choir sings a mixture of opera, classical, popular, folk and world music, and meets every Wednesday.
The Community Choir is supported by Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.
Scottish Opera is offering a range of accessible performances, to ensure everyone has the opportunity to enjoy a live opera experience that is inclusive and welcoming. With Access Opera performances and audio-description available this year, the Company aims to make it as easy as possible to attend the opera.
Specially created Access performances of The Barber of Seville and La traviata run alongside the mainstage productions in Glasgow and Edinburgh. With Dementia Friendly values at their core, afternoon Access performances are for those who enjoy a more relaxed opera experience. With a shorter running time (under two hours including an interval) and tickets at just £10, these audio-described performances are open to all, including those who may be living with dementia or Long COVID, more comfortable at a shorter show, struggling to get to evening performances, or would simply benefit from the more relaxed atmosphere.
Those who are visually impaired can also take advantage of audio-described performances of all three main stage productions – The Barber of Seville, Marx in London! and La traviata – where a live commentary is provided by a specialist audio describer during the show, describing the action on stage without compromising the music. As part of the experience, a recorded introduction to the opera is available in advance, as well as a live audio introduction before the start of the performance.
Pre-show talks are also available. These half-hour sessions delve into the detail of each opera, enhancing the audience enjoyment and extending knowledge of the piece.
Further information on the 2023/24 Season can be found at www.scottishopera.org.uk
Tickets go on sale from 1 June.