Scottish Opera 'right back on song'

SCOTTISH Opera yesterday unveiled a season of four major operas as its new director, Alex Reedijk, insisted the troubled company was "sorted".

Scottish Opera ceased full-scale opera productions for nearly a year and lost its permanent chorus in a major restructuring to pay off its debts.

Mr Reedijk said it was now in good shape financially. "We are solvent, we are stable, and it's my duty to keep it that way and to ensure that we continue to live within our means," he said.

The company would produce as many operas as it could and match spending and income. It was a myth opera companies had to go over budget, he said.

The entrepreneur Lord Irvine Laidlaw is paying a six-figure sum towards one of the four new productions, Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor.

However, the company's year-long search for a music director has still to bear fruit. Mr Reedijk said it had "got close to" three possible candidates, but one was offered another job and the others wanted to work with symphony orchestras, not operas.

The production of Lucia di Lammermoor will be directed by John Doyle, fresh from a major Broadway success with the musical Sweeney Todd.

"He is taking a fresh look at the work, and we are delighted to offer this opportunity to John," Mr Reedijk said.

Two operas in the 2006-7 season - Der Rosenkavalier and Madama Butterfly - are to be directed by David McVicar, who has recently produced major shows at the Royal Opera House and Glyndebourne.

The fourth main highlight in the line-up is Handel's Tamerlano. The first production of the opera in many years, it follows last year's triumph with the composer's Semele.

There is also a smaller touring production of Die Fledermaus.

Mr Reedijk, who moved from New Zealand Opera four months ago, said this year's programme had been mostly inherited, as productions were planned years in advance.

But he is now planning to commission new works from Scottish composers and lyricists, to present four or five short pieces in a festival-style show.

He said: "I'm passionate about new work, and Scotland has a rich musical and classical history and somewhere along the way we must set about rebuilding our Scottish Opera history."

The company is also to stage "aria adventures", with mini-recitals around Glasgow as part of the Merchant City Festival.

Mr Reedijk described Lord Laidlaw's gift as a sign of faith in the future of Scottish Opera and hoped others might follow suit.

Lord Laidlaw said: "As an opera-lover, I'm delighted to be investing in the future of our national opera company."

Curtain up...

Der Rosenkavalier shows in Glasgow in October and the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in November, along with Handel's Tamerlano.

Madama Butterfly and Lucia di Lammermoor open in Glasgow in March and May and come to the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in June 2007. The opera is launching a new 10 ticket for those aged under 26 and a four-operas-for-three subscription package.

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