For many years, I was involved with Scottish Opera, a company based in Glasgow, but touring its productions around Scotland both at full scale, although the number of suitable theatres for this is limited, and on the small scale, sometimes with just a handful of singers and a piano, in which case, any village hall or community centre can be turned into a mini opera house.
As Director of Public Relations, I frequently had to give an answer to curious enthusiasts who asked why the company did not perform more opera with obvious Scottish connections, and although my response was always that Scottish Opera was an international opera company which happened to be based in Scotland, rather than a local company dedicated to promoting anything with a hint of tartan regardless of its merit, I did have a great deal of sympathy with the question.
True, Scottish Opera did mount productions of Verdi’s Macbeth and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor within the first fourteen years of its existence, but this could hardly be regarded as anything like a policy to perform major works which are actually set in Scotland, let alone based on stories by Scottish writers. The company did perform works by contemporary Scottish composers such as Robin Orr, John Purser, Iain Hamilton, Thomas Wilson and Thea Musgrave, and that certainly was a policy, and many of their works were commissioned by Scottish Opera. But there were works which did have Scottish connections which were either underplayed or ignored (such as Berlioz’s Les Troyens, Wagner’s Der Fliegende Höllander and even the opera with which the company launched itself in 1962, Puccini’s Madama Butterfly).
I enjoyed many robust discussions with my colleagues on the artistic side and the administrative side of the company (although those on the financial side rarely saw the point) about what composers or works with a Scottish connection might be included in the repertoire, but by and large, I failed in my mission.
So the Scotch Corner section of OperaStory aims to make good that failure by exploring the whole world of opera and seeking out Scottish connections. Some of them are very obvious; others are fairly obscure; some are almost unbelievable, but all of them are true: there is a whole world of Scottish links – so pour yourself a glass of something with a Scottish link, sit back, and I hope that you enjoy reading the Scotch Corner articles as much as I have enjoyed researching them.