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  • Writer's pictureRachael Fulton

Made in Scotland: Scottish Opera's Five-15

"Opera is all about storytelling. When people come and see it they get absolutely wrapped up in the drama of the storytelling.

"The music helps you feel the emotion, you get drawn into the sweaty, human stories they tell on stage."

Alex Reedijk first fell in love with opera in the early eighties, at a performance of Benjamin Britten's Turn of The Screw at home in his native New Zealand.

Fresh from leaving college, Alex was captivated by the emotion and intensity of Britten's performance.

"It gets you in there," he said, tapping his chest. "In a way that so much in TV doesn't because television's so two dimensional."

Now the general director of Scottish Opera, Alex brings his passion for music and theatre to the Scottish public.

The company wish to open up the genre so that everyone is able to build an appreciation and attachment to it.

"It's like having a close friendship with someone and then realising you're in love with them - it builds up over time," said Alex.

"It's like anything - you can't be fluent in Spanish after one day in Ibiza, for example. You've got to come at it quietly - practice, see a few things.

"But it could take you a lifetime, a generation to understand the history and complexities of it. Opera's the same."

In the last five years, Scottish Opera have been working on Five: 15, Operas Made In Scotland in a bid to bring together composers and writers to make new Scottish productions.

The initiative focuses on hand-picking home grown British talent and giving them valuable coaching to produce easily digestible, miniature operas lasting fifteen minutes.

"We were tying to build up 'opera muscles' - just as a good athlete has to train to get fitter," said Alex.

"It occurred to me that there were plenty of people who wanted to run the 'opera-making marathon' in Scotland but didn't have the technical skills or the stamina.

"With Five-15, we could bring these composers and writers close to the company and build their opera muscles and put them through a kind of training programme."

The result was three years of sell-out performances in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and London, proving the huge nation-wide interest in exploring this exciting genre.

Building upon this success, Scottish Opera have now brought together the country's top composing and writing talents to produce four intensely emotive hour-long operas.

Lady from the Sea, Clemency, In the Locked Room and Ghost Patrol are four extremely different productions that harness the talent of some of Scotland's most prolific composers and writers.

Composers such as Craig Armstrong (Bazz Luhrmann's Romeo and Juliet) and award-winning authors such as Zoe Strachan have come together to create operas that range in subject matter from the effects of war to a woman's longing for love outside her marriage.

Ghost Patrol, a dark collaboration between composer Stuart MacRae and gothic horror writer Louise Welsh, opens with a frighteningly violent fight scene and tackles the issue of post traumatic stress syndrome and its impact on communities.

Lady from the Sea, a re-imagining of a play by Henrik Ibsen, explores the emotional turmoil of Ellida, a light-house keeper's daughter trapped in a loveless marriage, while In The Locked Room is the re-telling of a Thomas Hardy novel by Huw Watkins and David Harsent.

James MacMillan and Michael Symmons Roberts' collaboration, Clemency, is based on a biblical tale and is full of the rich spirituality for which composer MacMillan is famed.

"We wanted to bring together the next layer of Scottish writers and composers and put them into the mix," said Alex.

"These four operas are really powerful pieces of theatre. All of us have been extremely moved, they're very intense pieces.

"All four operas are four different points of the compass when it comes to the journeys they take you on."

Audiences have the chance to catch all four operas at the Theatre Royal between Thursday, September 6 to Sunday, September 9. The operas have just completed a very successful run at the Edinburgh International Festival.

"You have a different response to all of the pieces," said Alex.

"But what is common in all four of them is that you will be completely drawn into their stories."

  • To book tickets to the performances, call the Theatre Royal box office on 0844 871 7647

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