Opera Bill and the Libyan connection

THE new chairman of Scottish Opera, Bill Taylor, may be gnashing his teeth at a missed opportunity with news that the company’s counterparts south of the Border have commissioned an opera about Colonel Gaddafi.

Then again, maybe not, on grounds of taste alone.

The trend for pop-ops, which kicked off with Nixon in China and more recently Jerry Springer, sees the English National Opera commission a work on the idiosyncratic Libyan leader’s journey from pariah to statesman.

But some may feel Bill had a head start, so to speak, as among the QC’s former clients is none other than the Lockerbie bomber himself, Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi.

However, while some may pale at the thought of an opera about terrorism, Manifest Destiny had its first performance at London’s Tricycle Theatre in June. Keith Burstein the composer, defended the story of a Palestinian writer who becomes a suicide bomber, is tortured in Guantanamo Bay and dies after completing the libretto for an opera about war and peace.

"Opera is an art form capable of filtering, processing and transcending the big issues," he said.

Critical reaction to the piece was mixed, with some questioning the use of an aspiring bomber as heroine, or seeing the piece as an apologia for terrorism.

Meanwhile, the dance-hip-hop collective, Asian Dub Foundation, is planning a production of Gaddafi (working title), due for February 2006, with a rapper playing Gaddafi and a chorus comprised of his all-female cohort of bodyguards.

Why is it that The Producers springs to mind with visions of Gaddafi’s bodyguards instead of Gestapo lovelies goosestepping la Busby Berkeley?

Maybe with opera becoming more "rock ’n’ roll", Scottish Opera needs its very own Max Bialystock. Whether Mr Taylor fits the bill remains to be seen.

Nesbitt style for Bruce Oldfield

BRUCE Oldfield is used to consorting with beautiful women - Jerry Hall, Barbra Streisand, Catherine Zeta-Jones, Diana Ross and Diana, Princess of Wales, to name but a few.

However, even Brucie, one of the world’s leading fashion designers, was speechless in the presence of "Mary Doll" Nesbitt.

That could have been because he could hardly get a word in - neither could anyone else - as Elaine C Smith turned on "ra patter" full blast at the fashion charity event for Barnardo’s at The Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh. Still, Bruce, like everyone else, found Elaine C "stunning" as along with author Alison Craig the trio helped to raise around 48,000.

Bruce - a former "Barnardo’s boy" - explained why he was here: "It’s payback time. I’m delighted to be able to give some of my time back to the charity that helped me in my formative years."

Seven dresses were sent down to Bruce Oldfield from students at the Heriot-Watt. "Gaynor Cosgrove’s was picked as the best," our fashionista reports. "She also won the top raffle prize, two tickets to see Elaine C Smith’s show, along with back-stage passes, and an invite to the after-show party. Think I’ll get her to pick my lottery numbers this week."

Folk were bidding for two return tickets to London and a day at Bruce’s studio. On the night, he also threw in an offer of lunch in London.

It's that "g" word again

WHETHER or not Dr John Reid will give the First Minister a kicking remains to be seen, but Jack McConnell’s office has announced he is off to open the new Rolls-Royce engineering works in Inchinnan today, proudly proclaiming: "The state-of-the-art plant has been supported by a grant offer of 15 million from the Scottish government ..."

Now, those with longish memories may recall Reid being a "patronising bastard" when he cut Henry McLeish down to size after the then First Minister had the temerity to use such a grandiose term for the Executive in January 2001. Dr John got up in the House of Commons to say there was no question of such a title. However, he’s unlikely to treat a fellow Stirling mafioso in such a manner.

Others may say it has not taken Tom McCabe long to make his mark back in government - sorry, the Executive - as it was he who started it all, trying to differentiate between Scottish ministers and civil servants.

• THE Hell fire was not emanating from the pulpit at St Mary’s RC Cathedral in Edinburgh at the weekend, but rather the organ. Damnation may well have been muttered when it overheated, but no Holy Water was necessary to quench the flames.

Atheist in good faith

THE tussle between Sally Magnusson and the Church of Scotland minister as to the "Anglicisation" of Songs of Praise rekindles memories of the late John P Mackintosh, MP.

He was strolling down the High St in Edinburgh, with the Rev Dr Harry Whitley, then minister of St Giles’, who was at that time conducting a campaign to introduce bishops into the Church of Scotland.

They met a mutual acquaintance who delivered the most terrible verbal assault upon poor Whitley.

When the chap stopped for breath, Dr Whitley said: "That’s all very well, Bill, but I have known you all your life and you’ve been an atheist all this time."

"Aye," replied Bill. "But I’m a Presbyterian atheist."

Our man Arthur Green recalls that John told this story at the centenary celebration of Our Lady Star of the Sea at Dunbar in 1978, a few months before he died.

Just the ticket as Cello takes Festival flight

THE Edinburgh International Festival education team was excited about conducting workshops on Harris and Barra this week. It was early to bed on Sunday night as the team had to catch a flight from Glasgow yesterday which would land on the beach at Eoligarry. The Festival team filled the wee plane. Admittedly, it had only six passenger seats, but there were just five of them ... and a cello, which, because it had to have a seat, had to have a ticket as well. It was booked in the name Cello Hetherington.

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