Marking a decade of bringing opera to Scotland

Opera Bohemia is celebrating 10 years of bringing live opera round Scotland and providing opportunities for young professional singers and musicians.

And it will celebrate with its biggest tour ever and a special production of Lehar’s The Merry Widow.

In its first decade, Opera Bohemia has given 135 performances of fully staged operas all round Scotland, as well as two short tours to England, providing performance opportunities for well over 100 young professional singers and musicians in Scotland. Recent productions have included Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Verdi’s Falstaff and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.

From 15 August to 14 September 2019, Opera Bohemia is on the road with its biggest tour to date, visiting eighteen venues from the Borders to the north coast, as well as two islands. Performances take place in Edinburgh, Perth, Glasgow, Kirkcaldy, Lanark, Stirling, Haddo, Lossiemouth, Boat of Garten, Strathpeffer, Thurso, Skye, Ayr, Newton Stewart, Greenock, Galashiels, Falkirk and Arran.

Artistic Directors and founders of Opera Bohemia Douglas Nairne and Alistair Digges said: ‘We can’t quite believe it has been ten years since we began our mission of bringing live opera round Scotland and giving opportunities to young professional singers and musicians.

‘In that time we’ve been lucky to work with so many talented performers, directors and designers. We are very grateful to everyone who has helped us along the way and to the various trusts and donors for their financial support.’

One of Opera Bohemia’s main aims is to introduce opera to first time opera goers and a younger generation, in a dynamic way.

In 2017 Bohemia launched their education project, taking opera workshops to schools all round Scotland each year. The workshops have received glowing feedback from students and teachers across the country and are in high demand.

This year the sessions involve over 600 children across 18 schools. The workshops are offered to schools for free and are a fun introduction to opera and classical music. The sessions aim to challenge the unfair stigma often attached to the art form, and also tie in with the school music curriculum.

Opera Bohemia hopes to tempt even more people to give opera a try this year with their new production of Franz Lehár’s operetta, The Merry Widow, with libretto by Viktor Léon and Leo Stein. It will be the first time the operetta has been performed professionally in Scotland for over 10 years.

The new production is set in the romantic city of Paris in the 1930s, where various suitors squabble to win the hand of the recently widowed, but very wealthy, Hannah Glawari. The work is full of stunning Viennese melodies, including famous show-stoppers like ‘Vilja’, ‘The Merry Widow Waltz’ and ‘Chez Maxim’s’.

The production will showcase some of Scotland’s finest young professional talent, with many Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumni featured in the line-up. Edinburgh born soprano Catriona Clark and Fife born baritone Douglas Nairne, who have become favourites with Bohemia audiences round the country, sing the lead duo, with other cast members including former Scottish Opera Young Artists, Marie Claire Breen and Andrew McTaggart.

Director John Wilkie, who made his directorial debut with Bohemia back in 2010 and who has gone onto enjoy an international career, returns to the company for this special 10th anniversary tour. Recent RCS graduate Alisa Kalyanova designs the stunning new 1930’s style production with choreography by Michael Scott. Musical director Alistair Digges conducts a special arrangement for chamber orchestra for some performances, with others accompanied by piano (Andrew Brown) and solo violin (Dániel Mészöly).

The tour and education project are supported by the National Lottery through Creative Scotland, the Whitaker, David and June Gordon, JTH, Robertson, Hope Scott and McGlashan Trusts and The William Mann Foundation.

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