Scottish opera ready to hit road

Cosi Fan Tutte - Scottish Opera tour set in 1950s Italy
Cosi Fan Tutte - Scottish Opera tour set in 1950s Italy

It’s hard to believe that beautiful Italian marble floor is going to be broken up night after night and put into the back of a lorry.

As are those very substantial, elegant pillars that frame the set for this new production of Mozart’s masterpiece, Cosi Fan Tutte.

But this intricately detailed set – marble floor and all – is merely wood and paint.

And, yes, it will indeed have to be packed and unpacked night after night for a tour of 19 venues across Scotland that are about as far from the grandeur of an opera house as it is possible to get: from small theatres to village halls and high schools.

While opera may have shaken off its elitist tag – with ticket prices for even main stage productions starting from just £10 – there’s no doubt people are still attracted by its glamour and style.

And that’s exactly what director Lissa Lorenzo is aiming to take on the road; a bright, witty production, sung in English and set in 1950s Italy, which oozes glamour and fun, in homage to the wonderful music at its core.

“I wanted to give the audience something light, bright, romantic ... even escapist,” said Lissa.

“And 1950s Italy is a gift in terms of beautiful dresses and lovely imagery.”

As stage director, she works closely with musical directors Claire Haslin and Nicholas Fletcher as well as the singers to pull the musical and theatrical elements together.

As soon as rehearsals begin, the singers will have learned the music and will have two or three days singing together before the stage work begins.

The much-loved opera tells the story of when Don Alfonso wagers that he can prove all women are fickle, Ferrando and Guglielmo foolishly accept, convinced that their beloved fiancées could never be unfaithful.

Pretending they have been sent to war, the men disguise themselves and each attempts to seduce the other’s wife-to-be ...

“It’s my job to “make sure we all tell the story,” said Lissa. “Cosi is very complex. There’s a lot of game playing – and we have to ask constantly who’s pressing the buttons, who’s being manipulated?

“So you need to have lots of conversations – if the singers don’t feel comfortable, they can’t sell the story.”

Being on the road is a challenge for the young cast too but it will stand them in good stead, wherever their careers take them.

Many of them are part of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artist Programme– as is Lissa herself – which means they have the company’s considerable support to nurture their talent and launch their careers.

“They learn stamina and how to look after their voices and after themselves – often in the depths of a Scottish winter and sometimes with only basic facilities,” added Lissa.

“When you’re sitting back stage in a village hall with one toilet and a kettle, it keeps us all grounded and reminds us what’s important.”

Scottish Opera, formed 50 years ago, has been touring for 30.

It is, says SO’s general director Alex Reedijk, a vital part of the company’s work. “This is not an add-on – this is what we do,” he says. “We have always felt you should have the same level of provision as people who live near the main stages. It can’t be on the same scale but that doesn’t mean you can’t have great quality.”

Cosi Fan Tutti will be staged at An Lanntair arts centre in Stornoway on Tuesday, November 3rd at 7.30pm.