Opera Scotland

Elephant Angel

Tours by decade

Tours by location


Gareth Williams.


Bernard MacLaverty.





First Performance: Giffnock (Eastwood Park Theatre), 19 October 2012.

First performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera première: As above.



Scottish Opera's innovatory scheme for producing new work, developed over three seasons as Five:15 - Operas Made in Scotland, was further developed in 2012, as the company began to celebrate its 50th anniversary. Two of the composers, Craig Armstrong and Stuart MacRae, were commissioned to produce longer works for introduction at the Edinburgh Festival. In the subsequent autumn, Gareth Williams and his librettist Bernard MacLaverty introduced a rather different project, a 50-minute work for a small group of young professional singers and musicians touring Scotland and Northern Ireland. The piece featured at each venue a group of children from a local school who rehearsed intensively all day and sang their choruses in the show at night, working under the composer's direction. What must have been an exhausting project to work on for the professionals made an excellent entertainment for the audiences, and introduced the children to the idea of opera.


Plot Summary

The Elephant Angel turned out to be a generally unsentimental tale suitable for audiences of all ages.  Based on a true story, it is set in Belfast during the Blitz of 1941, when the city was subjected to German bombing raids. It tells of a lady zookeeper who, appalled at the destruction by officialdom of the large animals in the Belfast Zoo's collection (a precautionary measure), takes a baby elephant called Sheila home with her each night, looking after it and keeping it safe with the help of the children who live nearby. As the bombs begin to fall, the local children play and laugh and sing in the Belfast streets. With peace restored, the Zoo returns to normal with the descendants of the slaughtered animals watching the next generation of visiting children.

The Cast

Head Keeper
Miss Austin
 a keeper

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