Old Kirk setting for classic opera

Cast of Opera Bohemia's 'Eugene Onegin' in rehearsals
Cast of Opera Bohemia's 'Eugene Onegin' in rehearsals

A new production of Russia’s favourite opera is coming to Kirkcaldy later this month.

Opera Bohemia return to the Lang Toun with their version of Tchaikovsky’s ‘Eugene Onegin’ on Thursday, August 22 at the Old Kirk.

The latest offering from the company follows their critically acclaimed productions of ‘La Bohème’, ‘Lucia di Lammermoor’ and ‘Madame Butterfly’.

Founded by Alistair Digges and Kirkcaldy born Douglas Nairne, Opera Bohemia was establised by the young professional opera singers as they were keen to produce more operatic performances across Scotland and to create more opportunities for professional artists in all areas of opera.

They also wanted to introduce the musical genre to first time opera goers and a younger generation in a fresh, dynamic way.

The company is now in its fourth year, and is continuing to add new works to its repertoire.

The latest being ‘Eugene Onegin’, which was first performed in Moscow in 1879.

And it comes to Kirkcaldy this month with Douglas playing the lead role.

The opera, based on Alexander Pushkin’s famous novel tells the story of a wealthy young man, who lives to regret his nonchalant dismissal of a young woman’s love.

Speaking to The Press this week, Douglas said he’s looking forward to bringing the production home to Fife.

The 29-year-old said: “It’s a massive thing for me [coming to Kirkcaldy], with Kirkcaldy being home to Fife Opera it’s one of the few places in Scotland still putting on opera.

“I love coming home to Kirkcaldy and it’s a knowledgeable audience.

“Actors I’ve brought with me always say that the audience is knowledgeable.

“They tend to know the right place to applaud, the right place to laugh and the plot of it.

“It’s also fairly daunting for me to come back as well. It’s great to get the support of people locally but I also don’t want to be terrible.

“We performed La Boheme in the Old Kirk. It makes a really good venue.

“When you don’t have raised seating it makes it difficult, but the Old Kirk has the raised seating, although it’s not as important this time as we’re building a stage. It’s nice acoustically too.”

The company are currently busy rehearsing the opera ahead of three dates, including the Kirkcaldy date and one in Edinburgh and another in Glasgow.

And Douglas said things are coming together.

He explained: “They [rehearsals] are going really well. We have got a great team, a very young team of people who are really fired up for it.

“One of the biggest challenges is geting round the Russian language which is fairly foreign to all of us. We have got a Russian language coach who is cracking the whip at rehearsals so we get it right.”

For the opera singer, who studied at RSAMD, it’s a great pleasure to be able to play the title role in Tchaikovsky’s opera.

“It’s not very often I play a sort of bad guy,” said Douglas.

“In a lot of ways he’s not a very likeable character since he’s fairly horrible to women.

“I’m enjoying the challenge of it. It’s a great role to sing and a role that every baritone dreams of playing.

“Vocally it’s probably the biggest thing I have ever had. There’s a lot of singing but I’m enjoying the opportunity.”

The work of Opera Bohemia has been recognised by Creative Scotland, which is supporting the company’s new production of ‘Eugene Onegin’.

This year the company has formed the Opera Bohemia Ensemble featuring some of Scotland’s most exciting young professional orchestral players.

Conducted by Alistair Digges, they will play a reduced orchestration of Tchaikovsky’s magical score.

The orchestra is led by Fife born violinist Feargus Hetherington, who is shaping a great career in solo, chamber and orchestral playing.

Alongside Douglas, Catriona Clark returns to Opera Bohemia as Tatyana, following her huge success last year in Madam Butterfly.

The rest of the cast includes Scottish Opera’s young artists Ross McInroy and Katie Grosset and English National Opera’s principal tenor from ‘The Barber of Seville’, Tyler Clarke.

In this imaginative new production by John Wilkie, from Kirkcaldy, the action is set in the time of the Russian Revolution.

The performance will be sung in Russian with English surtitles and promises to be a great night out for opera lovers and newcomers alike.

Douglas added: “We get lots of feedback from performances we do and one of the biggest compliments to us, and one of the challenges, is when a newcomer to opera says it’s their first time and they really enjoyed it.

“We keep it small and intimate and we have the English translation being projected on to a big screen, so the plot is clear throughout.

“It’s a little bit shorter so it’s as accessible as possible, and it’s cheap so no one is alienated by price.”

Tickets for ‘Eugene Onegin’ are priced £13, £11 concessions and £5 for under 18s and are available from Ticketmaster or by calling (01592) 596904.