Opera tunes in to popular classics

SCOTTISH Opera is planning large-scale productions of popular classics such as West Side Story as part of a bid to boost audiences and broaden its appeal.

Its chairman, Bill Taylor QC, said that following a major restructuring of the company, fresh ideas and innovative performances would become the norm.

He said: "There are no inhibitions. There are very few people around to say, 'Well, we did not do it that way in the past,' which is the usual drag anchor on a change process. We have got brand new people coming in with new ideas.

"I would like to see Scottish Opera doing West Side Story. It is a great piece, one of Bernstein's best and a dead ringer for Glasgow. This is because the Puerto Ricans and New Yorkers in the 1950s mirror the razor gangs in Glasgow of the same period.

"With the Catholics and the Protestants you have the same kind of potential for a Glasgow-based West Side Story as you have in New York.

"I am very keen on playing in a stadium. I am very keen on that. I saw Teresa Berganza singing Carmen in the Stade Bercy in Paris in front of about 18,000 people and it was electrifying."

It is hoped the new approach can be married with performances of challenging works from Wagner's Ring Cycle and the existing repertoire of productions by Verdi, Mozart and Handel.

Plans are also in place for a digital archive where consumers could download Scottish Opera's back catalogue. Subscribers to the site would also be e-mailed for their opinion on what they wanted to see and where they wanted to see it.

Scottish Opera is not staging any full-scale operas in either Edinburgh or Glasgow until May, in a cost-saving move that followed steep job cuts to pay off the company's debts. The company has laid off its chorus and seen a clear-out of top managers.

Next spring it will return with a crowd-pleasing run, including Don Giovanni, Carmen and a small-scale touring production of La Bohme. The run will be overseen by the company's new general director Alex Reedijk, currently the general director of New Zealand Opera.

The company's accounts, published last week, show a trading deficit of 201,022 compared with last year's 1.2m.

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