Light in the Operatic Dark? Singers Launch a Series of Benefit Concerts for Scottish Opera
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
The Herald [Glasgow]
By Phil Miller
Scottish Opera's "dark season" next year may not be so dark after all ó if the company succeeds in collecting about £400,000 in a series of new fundraising events.
The Theatre Royal in Glasgow, home (for now) of Scottish Opera.As part of the troubled company's controversial £7 million deal with the Scottish Executive, the opera has been forced to "go dark", performing no major operas, for the season that begins next summer.
However, the company, which is making about 90 of its staff redundant, is hoping that a fresh fundraising venture, called the New Production Fund, will raise enough to stage a new opera next year.
Scottish Opera has previously relied on its £7.5 million annual funds from the Scottish Arts Council and corporate sponsorship in recent years to fund its award-winning operas.
However, now that the opera is being "downsized", and with no funding increase available in the future, it has decided to launch a series of charity events to raise money to enable it to increase its programmed events for the next two years.
The first and biggest of these will be the Gala Concert, to be held on September 19 at the Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. A series of leading opera singers will be performing, for no fee, at the concert, at which tickets are priced between £40 and £150.
Dame Anne Evans, the celebrated Wagnerian soprano, is coming out of retirement especially for the concert. She will be joined by other singers, including Matthew Best ó Wotan in the opera's recent Ring cycle ó Jane Irwin, Lisa Milne and Simon Keenlyside, among others.
Last night Dame Anne, who performed for Welsh National Opera under the baton of Sir Richard Armstrong, the artistic director of Scottish Opera, said: "I felt so bad when I heard what happened to Scottish Opera, so I am coming up to perform and I am waiving my fee.
"I am very happy to come out of retirement to do this ó it is so awful, the current situation with Scottish Opera, a company that has done so much. It is so sad."
It is hoped that the concert will raise about £60,000 for the opera, all of which will be given to the New Production Fund. Already £20,000 has been raised for the fund from a raffle held among the Friends of Scottish Opera.
A spokeswoman for the opera said: "This will be money put aside purely for investment in new productions; it is ring-fenced money."
She added: "There is a chance if we raise the money quickly enough we will be able to put something on during the dark season ó after all the definition of an opera company is that it stages full-scale opera productions."
Catriona Reynolds, the opera's head of fundraising and sponsorship, said that it was unlikely a gala concert on the scale and prestige of the forthcoming show would be repeated, but is hoping to unveil a series of other initiatives to raise money for the New Production Fund.
"We hope that the fund will gradually accrue funds so that we can add to our planned series of performances over the next two years. The funds will come from a variety of different sources.
"It would be a lovely idea if we could raise enough in time to put something on in the dark season, although personally I doubt it, the timeframe is too short. "But we are planning for this money to be used in the next two years."
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