Opera Bohemia celebrates ten years in Fife

Opera Bohemia returns to Kirkcaldy with its 10th anniversary production.
Opera Bohemia returns to Kirkcaldy with its 10th anniversary production.

It’s been ten years since Opera Bohemia was born and performed its first production, La Boheme, here in Kirkcaldy.

Since then the theatre company has gone from strength to strength, giving 135 performances of fully staged operas around Scotland as well as two short tours of England.

Opera Bohemia was established by Douglas Nairne and Alistair Digges back in 2010 and since its beginning, the Lang Toun has had a special place in the company’s heart as it is Douglas’ hometown.

All of the company’s productions have visited Kirkcaldy over the years and as it celebrates its tenth anniversary with its biggest tour to date, of course the town’s Adam Smith Theatre is among the 18 venues they are visiting.

The company’s production of Lehar’s ‘The Merry Widow’ comes to the Bennochy Road venue on Tuesday, August 20 and the performance promises to be something very special.

Artistic directors and founders, Douglas and Alistair are excited about the celebrations.

Alistair said: “We can’t quite believe it has been ten years since we began our mission of bringing live opera round Scotland and giving opportunities to young professional singers and musicians.

“In that time we’ve been lucky to work with so many talented performers, directors and designers.

“We are very grateful to everyone who has helped up along the way and to the various trusts and donors for their financial support.”

Douglas continued: “It’s great to be back at the Adam Smith Theatre where we always get such a warm response from the Fife audience.”

The company has performed at over 40 venues across Scotland with highlights including the first opera at the new Beacon Arts Centre in Greenock and an invitation to perform Madame Butterfly in London.

Recent productions have included Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers, Verdi’s Falstaff and Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin.  

One of Opera Bohemia’s main aims is to introduce opera to first time opera goers and a younger generation in a dynamic way.

In 2017 the company launched its education project, taking opera workshops to schools around Scotland. These have received glowing feedback from students and teachers and are in high demand with this year’s sessions involving over 600 children at 18 schools.

The workshops are offered to schools for free and are a fun introduction to opera and classical music.

They aim to challenge the unfair stigma often attached to the art form, and also tie in with the school music curriculum.

And with their brand new production for this special anniversary year, Alistair and Douglas hope to tempt even more people to give opera a try.

This is the first time Franz Lehar’s operetta, The Merry Widow with libretto by Viktor Leon an d Leo Stein, has been performed professionally in Scotland for over a decade.

Set in the romantic city of Paris in the 1930s, various suitors squabble to win the hand of the recently widowed, but very wealthy, Hannah Glawari. The work is full of stunning Viennese melodies, including famous showstoppers like ‘Viljah’, ‘The 
Merry Widow Waltz’ and ‘Chez Maxim’s’.

As ever, Opera Bohemia’s production will showcase some of Scotland’s finest young professional talent, with many RCS alumni featured in the line-up.

Soprano Catriona Clark and baritone Douglas Nairne, who have become favourites with Bohemia audiences, sing the lead duo, with other cast members including former Scottish Opera young artists Marie Claire Breen and Andrew McTaggart.

Director John Wilkie, from Kirkcaldy, made his debut with Bohemia back in 2010 and since then he has gone on to enjoy an international career.

However he’s back for this latest production. He said: “I was very fortunate to be invited to be one of the founding members of Opera Bohemia in 2010 by Alistair and Douglas.

“ I have directed four productions for the company since, including the inaugural production of La Bohème, Madama Butterfly and Eugene Onegin.

“This is a company that is very close to my heart as it gave me an opportunity to create a platform to build a career as an opera director on.

“Now based in London, I work at companies such as The Royal Opera House, Opera Holland Park, Danish National Opera, and New Zealand Festival Opera, and I wouldn’t be doing so if it weren’t for this company’s unwavering ethos of creating opportunities for young performers and creatives.

“It’s a real joy to be back at Opera Bohemia to direct The Merry Widow - a charming, uplifting comedy that plays out in a stream of beautiful earworm (in a good way!) melodies.

“ The production is brought to life on a beautiful 1930s design which has been conceived by the exciting Alisa Kalyanova, and performed by a really intelligent young cast who have been a pleasure to collaborate with in the rehearsal room.

“Audiences should expect fabulous singing and music, wonderful dances, and lots of laughs – there is so much energy that blooms from the orchestration, and a zestfully comic environment is established very quickly.”

RCS graduate Alisa Kalvanova designs the stunning new 1930s style production, with choreography by Michael Scott.

Musical director Alistair Digges conducts a special arrangement for chamber orchestra which will accompany the performance, and the orchestra is made up of talented young musicians.

The Merry Widow is at the Adam Smith Theatre in Kirkcaldy on Tuesday, August 20 at 7.30pm. Tickets are available from www.onfife.com.