Scottish Opera’s new season
As its 60th anniversary celebrations wind-up with a new staging of Bizet’s Carmen, Scottish Opera has unveiled its 2023/24 season, with a new production of Jonathan Dove’s Marx in London! and revivals of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville and Verdi’s La traviata the mainstage offerings.
Chief executive and general director Alex Reedijk acknowledges that the activity level of the birthday year could not be maintained.
“On the back of a tremendous 60th anniversary we’ve put together what we hope is an interesting season for our audiences,” he said. “The 60th anniversary season was a combination of new productions and a big commitment to finishing off work that had been in the pipeline pre-Covid. Now a new economic reality is dawning – not particularly for Scottish Opera, but more widely across the performing arts in the UK and in Scotland.
“We are focussed on maintaining the momentum we’re building with audiences returning to our productions after the pandemic. Carmen’s advance sales are as strong as we’ve ever seen, so Barber and Traviata are us trying to maintain that momentum. Our average attendance has been very good for our 60th anniversary, 85 to 90 per cent of capacity, and we’ve seen a change in where that audience is coming from, with an uptick in metropolitan areas.”
Sir Thomas Allen’s staging of the Rossini will be sung in Amanda Holden’s English translation, with Samuel Dale Johnson in the title role, opening in October. This time next year, Sir David McVicar’s 2008 La Traviata will also tour from Glasgow to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh, with Hye-Youn Lee as Violetta.
Following a year that featured four new productions in Candide, Ainadamar, Il trittico and Carmen, much attention will focus on next February’s unveiling of director Stephen Barlow’s new staging of Dove’s Marx in London, superseding Scottish Opera’s investment in the original German production at the end of 2018.
“It’s a proper helter-skelter through Marx’s life,” said Reedijk, “delivered in one day of his life in London. It had its world premiere in Bonn and then lost a bit of momentum, but like Flight [a hit for the company earlier in 2018] it takes characters with humour and pathos through a very intense period.
“On reflection we decided to start afresh with the production, taking a different visual direction because we loved what Stephen Barlow did with Flight. It seemed right to bring his focus and sense of humour to bear on Marx.”
Reedijk adds that much of what has happened in the UK in the intervening years gives the director material to draw upon.
“There has been much to say about capitalism, London life and how someone’s public face relates to their chaotic private life. We have seen that in one or two of our more recent leadership models – some of whom have delivered chaos both publicly and privately!”
The show will play Glasgow and Edinburgh, with David Parry conducting and company favourite Roland Wood, mostly recently seen in McVicar’s Il trittico, as Karl Marx.
“Roland has revealed, in both Tosca and Falstaff, the capacity to find humour as well as pathos in a role, as well as a degree of physical menace. He’s become a really rich performer, and we love using him,” said Reedijk.
The 23/24 season will open with a concert performance of Richard Strauss rarity Daphne, the company’s contribution to the Lammermuir Festival, but having a preview performance at Glasgow’s Theatre Royal before visiting St Mary’s in Haddington and then later repeated at Edinburgh’s Usher Hall. Music director Stuart Stratford conducts that and both the Rossini and Verdi revivals.
“Lammermuir Festival has been a wonderful provocation for us,” said Reedijk. “It has enabled us to consider what repertoire would appeal to a particular audience, and for Stuart to continue to find work that has either rarely or never been presented in Scotland. By also presenting that in Glasgow and Edinburgh we are sharing that with other audiences.”
Elsewhere in the year, alongside regular features like the Opera Highlight tours, Scottish Opera Young Company has a mini-tour of Glasgow, Largs and Stirling with a double bill of new work Maud by Henry McPherson, a winner in the company’s 2018 Opera Sparks initiative, and Kurt Weill’s Down in the Valley.
“The stories that underpin those operas are centuries apart but both have resonances for communities in Scotland,” said Reedijk.
“It was always the intention that the Young Company would be part of a pathway into the world of opera – not necessarily Scottish Opera, but the artform – just as the Emerging Artists programme is about preparing younger, post-grad singers for life in the opera world.
“One happy outcome of Covid was the amount of attention we were able to give to that programme, and the singers came out of that experience even more operatically muscular, and we’ve been able to find them work in main-stage productions as well as in Opera Highlights and other projects.”
Pictured: Jonathan Dove