Bringing Verdi’s masterpiece to the stage in Fife

Opera Bohemia's new production for 2018 is Verdi's comic masterpiece, Falstaff.
Opera Bohemia's new production for 2018 is Verdi's comic masterpiece, Falstaff.

Opera Bohemia continues its mission to bring more live opera to Scotland and more opportunities to young professional singers and musicians, with its new production for 2018, Verdi’s comic masterpiece, Falstaff.

The production is travelling to 12 venues round Scotland throughout July and August, including Fife.

Opera Bohemia continues in their mission to bring more live opera to Scotland and more opportunities to young professional singers and musicians, with their new production for 2018, Verdi's comic masterpiece, Falstaff. The production is coming to the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday, August 14.

Opera Bohemia continues in their mission to bring more live opera to Scotland and more opportunities to young professional singers and musicians, with their new production for 2018, Verdi's comic masterpiece, Falstaff. The production is coming to the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday, August 14.

The opera is making its debut performance at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday, August 14. The company has previously performed at the Old Kirk for the past eight years.

Opera Bohemia was founded by Fife-born baritone Douglas Nairne and Glasgow-born conductor Alistair Digges.

Now in its ninth year, the company has given 116 performances of fully-staged operas and provided performance opportunities for well over 100 young professional singers and musicians in Scotland.

One of the original goals was to try and introduce opera to a new audience, as well as providing more live performances for opera lovers. The company has developed a special relationship with Fife, bringing a production to the area each year.

Members of Opera Bohemia acting during a dress rehearsal for the production.

Members of Opera Bohemia acting during a dress rehearsal for the production.

It is particularly excited this year to be moving into the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy, the home town of co-founder Douglas.

The company is hoping to tempt even more people to give opera a try with their new production of Falstaff, the final opera written by Giuseppe Verdi.

Based on Shakespeare’s Merry Wives of Windsor, the opera revolves around the unlikely, plump protagonist, Sir John Falstaff, and his farcical attempts to seduce women in order to gain access to their husbands’ wealth.

With rhythmic pace and beautiful melodies, Falstaff is as energetic and exciting musically as it is dramatically.

Award winning director Adrian Osmond and designer Kenneth MacLeod have teamed up to create a dynamic new production with a star-studded cast including former Scottish Opera emerging artists Andrew McTaggart and Hazel McBain along with Douglas and Catriona Clark.

The performance will be sung in Italian with English subtitles and is accompanied by The Opera Bohemia Ensemble, under the baton of Alistair Digges.

Both the cast and orchestra include a large percentage of Royal Conservatoire of Scotland alumni, providing vital professional performance opportunities in Scotland for music graduates.

Douglas is playing one of the lead roles, Ford.

He said: “Audiences can expect a fast paced, dynamic production with world class singing and playing from some of the country’s finest professional musicians and singers.

“Unlike most operas you can rest assured that nobody dies in this production!

“Comedies are a rarity in opera, but this is one of the finest the art form has to offer. This colourful production updates the opera to the 1970s.”

But for anyone who isn’t familiar with Falstaff, Douglas explained what it is about.

“It’s based on William Shakespeare’s play, The Merry Wives of Windsor,” he said.

“The unlikely protagonist Sir John Falstaff, is renowned for three things, his drinking, his eating and his womanising.

“His elaborate lifestyle has taken it’s toll on his financial resources, and in order to rectify this, he attempts to seduce the wives of two wealthy gentlemen. Unfortunately the Merry Wives are already wise to his behaviour and work together to lead him a merry dance.

“Many men around Windsor are of course seeking revenge on Falstaff for his unseemly behaviour and what ensues is a utter confusion and chaos.”

He said the cast of the production consists of 10 professional singers, most who were born and bred in Scotland, and their ages range between 24 and 49.

Douglas said: “The performance in Kirkcaldy is accompanied by the Opera Bohemia Ensemble, a group of 11 players, hand picked from around the country.

“The company has great ties with the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland which many of our performers are graduates of. The cast is led by Scottish Opera star Andrew McTaggart who sings the title role.”

Douglas said for anyone who has never seen a local opera, this one would be a good one to start with.

“Opera is an amazing art form which, in itself draws together so many different elements of art such as singing, acting, instrumentalists and visual arts,” he explained.

“However it suffers from very unfortunate and unfair stigmas.

“The organisation has done a lot of research into exactly what puts people off the art form and the common themes are that the acting is bad, that audiences don’t understand what is going on and that it is too expensive.

“Opera Bohemia presents the art form in a very pure and accessible way and also at extremely affordable prices.

“Going to see it in a cinema is a great modern way of seeing opera, but it’s still not the same as the experience of hearing singing live, and witnessing powerful acting only a matter of metres from you.

“At Opera Bohemia we have an extremely strong cast of passionate and dynamic performers. “We also provide English subtitles so the plot is extremely clear.

“Opera Bohemia is the perfect company to go and see if giving opera a go for the first time.”