Opera Scotland

Scottish Opera's Golden Years: book jacket

2022 Scottish Opera’s Golden Years John Duffus

Posted 7 Dec 2022

There have been histories of Scottish Opera before: Scottish Opera - the First Ten Years by Conrad Wilson (Collins, London and Glasgow 1972); It is a Curious Story The Tale of Scottish Opera (1962-1987) by Cordelia Oliver (Mainstream Publishing 1987); and most recently Fifty Years of Scottish Opera: a Celebration (Scottish Opera 2013).

But now in 2022 comes something quite different – not a history, but a memoir - by John Duffus. Duffus worked with Scottish Opera from 1971 to 1978, in a range of management roles, from his start as Personal Assistant to the General Administrator, and ending his spell as Technical Controller. From this insider perspective he bears witness to what might also be described as the company’s teenage years. And as with all teenagers there was growth, and challenges, galore.

However although his formal employment with the company may seem short, Duffus kept in touch with its development and continued to pursue an impressive career in performing arts management. This highly personal narrative makes for a marvellously gossipy and entertaining account of the challenges that lay behind some of the performances. It must be admitted that stylistically the work is uneven, inevitably episodic, and in places would have benefited from the attentions of an editor.


However this narrative makes for a fine contrast with many biographies and autobiographies in the performing arts which can tend to the general, to focus on the performers and to blandness, glossing over any board politics or backstage ups and downs.

This volume is a happy exception and those of us who remember the ‘Golden Years’ are hugely grateful to have this insider account. We cannot recommend this too highly.

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