Scotland is rich in abundance of opera history. Scotland has a national opera institute – the Scottish Opera – and boasts being the largest performing arts institution in Scotland. It delivered fantastic performances in the big centres such as Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness as well as 50 more theatres scattered abroad the country.
The Scottish Opera is nearing 55 years old and in its time has delivered some highly accoladed performances. One example is the world premiere of Ines de Castro by James MacMillan which was performed at the 1996 Edinburgh International Festival and Richard Wagner’s epic Ring Cycle (Der Ring des Nibelungen) in 2003 again at the Edinburgh International Festival. The Conservatoire first opened its doors to teaching the great art in 1998 under the name of Alexander Gibson Opera School. It was the first and only of its kind.
Several operas have had their setting in Scotland and several have been typically Scottish. However, many of these are not written by native Scots and their portrayer of Scottish features is not always accurate.
Scottish Opera like much of the other classical arts is influenced intensely by French, Italian, English and German influences. Opera is traditionally an Italian art and it is thought that the Italian cellist and composer, Lorenzo Bocchi, introduced the art form to the country in the 1720s. It is believed that he played a part in Scotland’s first Opera – The Gentle Shepherd – a libretto written by Allan Ramsay. A central composer in Scottish Opera is Hamish MacCunn who composed Jeanie Deans, Diarmid and Prue as well as The Golden Girl and Breast of Light (unfinished).
The Opera Scotland website has up to date listing of performances in various areas as well as catalogues of past performances throughout history, dating back well into the 1700s.