Scottish Opera series to premiere in Aberdeen

A new partnership between Scottish Opera and the University of Aberdeen’s Word festival will bring a popular short opera series to the Granite City for the first time.

As part of celebrations to mark the 10th anniversary of Word – the University of Aberdeen Writers Festival - Scottish Opera’s successful Five:15 strand will premiere at the event in May.

Now in its third year, Five:15 Operas Made in Scotland, showcases new work by opera composers, writers and directors. It incorporates five short operas, each 15 minutes in length.

Two of the five short operas which will premiere at Word have been created by academics from the University of Aberdeen.

Professor Peter Davidson and composers Dr Paul Mealor and Professor Pete Stollery, and poet/writer Alan Spence and composer Dr Miriama Young, have collaborated to create brand-new short operas.

Work by writer Ron Butlin and composer Lyell Cresswell with director Matthew Richardson; writer Bernard MacLaverty and composer Vitaly Khodosh with director Irina Brown; and acclaimed writer Zoe Strachan and composer Nick Fells completes the programme.

Word10 will see more than 50 authors, thinkers and commentators from across the globe come to Aberdeen for an energetic, three-day mix of public readings, discussions, film screenings, performances, exhibitions – and now opera.

Alan Spence, who is also the Word Festival’s artistic director, said the Five:15 strand will add an exciting new dimension to the Word Festival, which last year attracted more than 11,000 visitors to the Granite City.

He said: “It is a great achievement for the University of Aberdeen to be partnering Scottish Opera on this production and The Word Festival is hugely proud to be hosting the opening performances, which will no doubt significantly add to the excitement of the tenth festival celebrations.

Five:15 will be a great centrepiece for the Word Festival and will help to bring opera to new audiences.”

He has penned Zen Story, with music from Miriama Young, lecturer in music at the University of Aberdeen.  The mini opera is based on a Japanese parable, a tale of the well-known Zen master, Hakuin.  In the story, a young girl falls pregnant and accuses Hakuin of being the father of her child. Hakuin deals with the situation with courage and compassion, pushing through to a resolution that is as unexpected as it is enlightened.

Professor Davidson has written the text of 74 Degrees North, set in the arctic on the last day of the brief summer before the snows return and the temperatures plummet. A young Orcadian scientist is visiting the graves of Franklin’s 1840’s disastrous expedition.  He is in awe of the landscape, inspired to study it in the footsteps of the Victorian explorer John Rae. Suddenly he realises he is being watched. 

After a troubling encounter with a stranger, the scientist starts to reflect on his own perceptions of place as the opera develops into an impassioned dialogue and the young scientist’s own perception of northern places is changed forever.

The music for the short opera is a collaboration between University of Aberdeen composers Paul Mealor, who worked on the instrumental/vocal score and Pete Stollery, who has created an electroacoustic score.

Professor Stollery, Head of Music at the University, said: “This is a great opportunity to showcase composers from the University of Aberdeen’s Department of Music.

“It is a real coup to be working with Scottish Opera on this exciting project, which is creating new operas for Scottish audiences to enjoy.”

Five:15will open on Saturday May 15 in Elphinstone Hall, King’s College, at 7.30pm with two further performances on Sunday May 16. It will then move to Edinburgh’s Traverse Theatre and then on to Òran Mór, Glasgow.

Tickets for the Aberdeen performances will go on sale on March 25 for more details visit