“We’re back in business,” insists Scottish Opera chief executive Alex Reedijk, who recently returned from London where his company enjoyed a week-long rerun of its popular production Gondoliers at the Hackney Empire. “Our big mission now is to persuade our Scottish public to return to at least pre-Covid levels. I am delighted that they have appreciated and supported the models we have adopted during the pandemic. I think we are all much more weather resistant.
The other reason it’s heartbreaking is that a full 2022-23 season, announced this week, marks Scottish Opera’s 60th anniversary. Emerging from the throes of Covid, armed with responses to the challenges it posed, and after a decade-long period of artistic and fiscal reset after near financial ruin, it bears all the hallmarks of an optimistic and positive company about his future.
Reedijk readily admits there is a “populist” emphasis on the new season, which continues to balance the now-accepted reduced diet of large-scale productions with increased activity in more disparate locations and settings.
In June and July, for example, the focus is on the pop-up open-air operas that have done so well during the pandemic, with tours in Scotland of three half-hour shorts – distillations of Rossini and by Mozart (A Little Bit of Barber and A Little Bit of Figaro) plus Be A Sport, Spike by Karen McIver, written (for the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow) for primary school children.
In August, Reedijk hopes to repeat the success of Falstaff from last year, staged in the car park of Scottish Opera’s production studios, this time with six walking performances of Bernstein’s satirical comedy operetta Candide in a adjacent larger site, New Rotterdam Wharf. Jack Furness leads a cast that includes William Morgan, Susan Bullock and a community choir of 100 people.
As for more regular theatrical productions, music director Stuart Stratford feels the mix is perfect, ranging from Mozart (Scottish Opera has included the current season’s revival of Thomas Allen’s Don Giovanni under the 60th anniversary banner ) and Bizet to Puccini and Osvaldo Golijov.
“It’s the perfect time to do Golijov’s Ainadamar,” says Stratford, not least because it will be the Scottish premiere and the first fully staged UK production of the spirited tribute to the theme. from the Argentine composer’s flamenco to the liberal anti-fascist Spanish poet and playwright. Fredrico Garcia Lorca.
As with Breaking the Waves (2019) by Missy Mazzoli and Greek (2017) by Mark-Anthony Turnage, it is a co-production with Opera Ventures. Olivier Prize-winning choreographer Deborah Colker makes her operatic debut as a director. “Deborah is known for the physicality and gritty nature of her work. She is very Latin. It will also be a wow moment for the dance community,” promises Stratford.
Reedijk is also excited about a new production of Puccini’s Il trittico, the first-ever production by his three actors, both because of a cast that includes veteran stars such as Karen Cargill and Louise Winter and the presence of Sir David McVicar as director. “It’s a huge undertaking, Puccini’s Ring,” says Reedijk. “Expect a classic McVicar production.”
Carmen is also returning to the stage repertoire, led by John Fulljames, previously responsible for Nixon in China, Scottish Opera’s last pre-pandemic production. Among its cast are Scottish Opera’s latest line-up of emerging artists: Zoe Drummond, Lea Shaw, Osian Wyn Bowen and Colin Murray. Their involvement reflects the tremendous recent success, past and present, of the company’s talent scouting program.
“Our investment in these artists, especially during Covid, has had a huge payback for everyone,” says Reedijk. “He is held in such high regard that over 400 people applied for the audition process last December.”
Two “operas in concert” complete the 2022-23 programme: Massenet’s impassioned French Revolution opera, Thérèse, at the Lammermuir Festival and in Perth; and a healthy Verdi pic’n’mix, The Verdi Collection, touring Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
And the Covid legacy? “You know, it was a useful exercise for us. By necessity, we learned to think and act faster,” says Stratford. “Then there was the realization that we could create an audience through the screen,” adds Reedijk. A global audience of 250,000 watched the recent screening of Gondoliers on BBC 4. “Covid pump primed stuff like that. Opportunities are available to us. »