Hirda - A New Opera for Shetland

by Elizabeth Atia -

Hirda is a new opera for Shetland commissioned and produced by NOISE (New Opera In Scotland Events), supported by Creative Scotland. It is a collaboration between Shetland fiddler and composer, Chris Stout, classical composer Gareth Williams, and librettist Sian Evans, a Welsh playwright and linguist.

The composers are delighted to be involved with the project, and Gareth Williams, who has a particular passion for writing opera said, ''Chris Stout and I have waited for over ten years to work with each other,” and Chris Stout said, ''This project provides me with a welcome opportunity to explore the world of opera while remaining true to my own folk tradition.'

This project provides me with a welcome opportunity to explore the world of opera while remaining true to my own folk tradition.

Its creation follows a period of research and development on the Shetland Islands, in line with NOISE's wish to make operas for particular communities throughout Scotland, inspired by specific places, their history and stories of the people connected with them. This material is used to create new operas, Hirda being one of them. This is NOISE’s second opera, the first being The Sloans Project.

The opera, which uses Shetland words and dialect (Hirda is a Shetland word meaning chaos or extreme untidiness), tells the story of Alastair, a once successful actor who returns to his island home for the wedding of his brother Iain to Mureal, a young archivist working in the local museum.

Everyone's world is turned upside down when Alastair and his sister-in-law find that they have a strong attraction to each other. This part of the opera has a contemporary setting. It is woven together with another story about a 19th century woman and her sailor fiancé which is told through the letters they wrote to each other.

Sian Evans, Librettist said “There can be few places in Western Europe like Shetland, where the life of the past is so present.' This is what I wanted to show – the sense of continuity, of modern lives lived in the wake of others long gone.”

Clare Hewitt, Development at Creative Scotland, said: “This is a great opportunity for Shetland communities to experience an exciting and original opera created for them, and to share it with audiences in Edinburgh and Glasgow. We are delighted to support the fantastic creative team of artists, producers and performers who will bring Hirda to life.”

There can be few places in Western Europe like Shetland, where the life of the past is so present.

The opera will be premièred in the Mareel Arts Centre in Lerwick, Shetland on Thursday 26 November 2015, before touring to three community halls on the Shetland Islands (Friday 27 November, Haroldswick; Saturday 28, Vidlin; Sunday 29, Sandwick).

This will be followed by two performances in Edinburgh's Queen's Hall (Thursday 3 & Friday 4 December) and two in the Drygate (craft brewery), Glasgow (Monday 7 & Tuesday 8 December).

Tickets available:

Mareel, Haroldswick, Vidlin, Sandwick
01595 745 555

Queen’s Hall, Edinburgh
0131 668 2019

Drygate, Glasgow
0141 212 8815

Posted in: Creative Scene