Opera Scotland

Five:15 (2)

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2000s - 1 tour

2009 - Scottish Opera
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FIVE: 15 – Operas Made in Scotland (Series Two)
The Lightning-Rod Man; Happy Story; White; Death of a Scientist; Remembrance Day.

This was a second series of five short operas teaming composers and writers with little previous experience of creating opera. The success of the first season in 2008 implies that these brief sketches may have a validity and popularity in their own right, as well as indicating the potential for longer works.

First performance: Glasgow (Oran Mor), 20 February 2009.
First UK performance: As above.
First performance in Scotland: As above.
Scottish Opera premiere: As above.


Music: Martin Dixon
Words: Amy Parker

This piece seemed the most conventionally operatic of the five, and worked convincingly as an opener for the sequence of new works. The costuming of the salesman in a style reminiscent of Wotan in Siegfried introduced a further dimension to the myth created by Melville.

Story by Herman Melville (American 1819-91)

Commentator (tenor)
The Lightning-Rod Man (baritone)
Man (counter-tenor)

Plot Summary
Middle America 1856. A thunderstorm rages. A salesman arrives at a man’s homestead peddling his strange scientific implement but the God-trusting poet refuses to be drawn in by the salesman’s attempt to trade in fear. Which do you choose? God or Science? Man or nature? Myth or the modern? And do you buy?


Music: David Fennessy
Words: Nicholas Bone and composer.

Story by Peter Carey (Australian)

He (baritone)
She (soprano)

Plot Summary
Peter Carey’s spare, exquisitely minimal story is about a man and a woman who learn that to be happy they must dream together. He wants to fly, but she thinks he wants to escape.


Music: Gareth Williams.
Words: Margaret McCartney.


Patient (soprano)
Mother (mezzo-soprano)
Cleaner (contralto)
Four Hospital Staff (Counter-tenor, tenor, baritone, bass)

Plot Summary
An outsider is thrown into a foreign and uncompromising environment which triggers memories of the past. The piece explores methods of communication and expressions of feeling, finding parallels between the mundane and extreme, when faced with making sense of the grief that a mother feels after losing a child.


Music: John Harris
Words: Zinnie Harris


Woman 1 (mezzo-soprano)
Woman 2 (soprano)
Dr Kelly (tenor)
Man (bass)

Plot Summary
The opera centres on the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of David Kelly, the government scientist who found himself at the centre of the controversy surrounding the government’s report on WMD in Iraq, and the subsequent decision to go to war. However the composer and librettist have introduced fictional elements and characters to give a universal perspective to the emotional conflict at the heart of David Kelly’s situation and his final moments.

The opera starts with a man in crisis, on the edge of suicide. Will this bring him some level of rest and comfort or will he find himself in terrible purgatory? If he stays alive, can he face the shattering consequences of his actions and the powerful forces lining up against him? Voices call to him, tempting him to rest or compelling him to stay alive. But is it already too late?


Music: Stuart MacRae
Words: Louise Welsh

This was perhaps the most striking piece of the set – complete in itself, and an excellent little horror story.


Frances Grieve (contralto)
Douglas Grieve (bass)
Lyn (soprano)

Plot Summary
Seventeen-year-old Lyn is saving for university by cleaning the house of two elderly neighbours, Douglas and Frances Grieve. She is full of excitement at her anticipated future, and a little disgusted by the decrepitude of the Grieves’ house. She is impatient to get her work done and leave. When her iPod stops working she puts an old record on the couple’s gramophone, but the popular piece of sentimental music rekindles the elderly couple’s past, unleashing horrific consequences for the girl.

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