“We’re back in business,” insists Scottish Opera general director Alex Reedijk, recently returned from London where his company enjoyed a week-long rerun of its popular Gondoliers production at Hackney Empire. “Our big mission now is to persuade our Scottish audiences to return at least to pre-Covid levels. I’m delighted they enjoyed and supported the models we adopted during the pandemic. I think we’re all much more weatherproof as a result.”
The other reason he’s chipper is that a full 2022-23 season, announced this week, marks Scottish Opera’s 60th anniversary year. Emerging from the throes of Covid, armed with answers to the challenges it posed, and after a decade-long period of artistic and fiscal reset following near-financial ruin, it bears all the hallmarks of a company bullish and positive about its future.
There is, Reedijk readily admits, a “populist” emphasis to the new season, which continues to balance the now-accepted reduced diet of main scale productions with increased activity in more disparate venues and settings.
In June and July, for instance, the focus is on the outdoor Pop-up Operas that worked so well during the pandemic, with tours around Scotland of three half-hour shorts – distillations of Rossini and Mozart (A Little Bit of Barber and A Little Bit of Figaro) plus Karen McIver’s Be A Sport, Spike, written (for the 2018 European Championships in Glasgow) for primary-aged kids.
In August, Reedijk hopes to repeat the success of last year’s Falstaff, staged in the car park of Scottish Opera’s Production Studios, this time with six promenade performances of Bernstein’s satirical comic operetta Candide in a more spacious adjacent site, New Rotterdam Wharf. Jack Furness directs a cast that includes William Morgan, Susan Bullock and a 100-strong community chorus.
When it comes to more regular indoor productions, music director Stuart Stratford reckons the mix is spot on, ranging from Mozart (Scottish Opera has included the current season’s revival of Thomas Allen’s Don Giovanni under the 60th birthday banner) and Bizet to Puccini and Osvaldo Golijov.
“It’s the perfect moment to be doing Golijov’s Ainadamar,” says Stratford, not least because it will be the Scottish premiere and first fully-staged UK production of the Argentine composer’s fiery Flamenco-themed tribute to the liberal anti-fascist Spanish poet and playwright Fredrico García Lorca.
As with Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves (2019) and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek (2017), it’s a co-production with Opera Ventures. Olivier Award-winning choreographer Deborah Colker makes her operatic debut as director. “Deborah is known for the gritty physicality of her work. She’s very Latin. This will be a ‘wow’ moment, too, for the dance community,” Stratford promises.
Reedijk is similarly enthusiastic about a new staging of Puccini’s Il trittico, the company’s first ever staging of its three one-acters, both due to a cast that includes such seasoned stars as Karen Cargill and Louise Winter and to the presence of Sir David McVicar as director. “It’s a huge undertaking, Puccini’s Ring,” claims Reedijk. “Expect a classic McVicar production.”
Carmen also returns to the staged repertory, directed by John Fulljames, previously responsible for Nixon in China, Scottish Opera’s last pre-pandemic production. Among its cast are Scottish Opera’s latest team of Emerging Artists: Zoe Drummond, Lea Shaw, Osian Wyn Bowen and Colin Murray. Their involvement reflects the recent huge success, past and present, of the company’s talent-spotting scheme.
“Our investment in these artists, especially during Covid, has had huge payback for everyone,” says Reedijk. “It’s held in such high esteem that over 400 people applied for last December’s audition process.”
Two “operas in concert” complete the 2022-23 line-up: Massenet’s impassioned French Revolution opera Thérèse at the Lammermuir Festival and in Perth; and a wholesome pic’n’mix of Verdi, The Verdi Collection, touring to Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh.
And the Covid legacy? “You know, it was a useful exercise for us. Out of necessity we learnt how to think and act more quickly,” says Stratford. “Then there was the realisation we could build audiences through the screen,” Reedijk adds. A worldwide audience of 250,000 watched the recent BBC 4 screening of Gondoliers. “Covid pump-primed things like that. Opportunities lie ahead.”
For full details of Scottish Opera’s 2022-23 Season, see www.scottishopera.org.uk