Publication - Progress report

Report for the five Scottish national performing companies: April 2016 to March 2018

Published: 2 Oct 2018

Two year annual report on National Theatre of Scotland, Royal Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Ballet, Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Scottish Opera.

33 page PDF

704.0 kB

33 page PDF

704.0 kB

Report for the five Scottish national performing companies: April 2016 to March 2018
3. Key Artistic Achievements

33 page PDF

704.0 kB

3. Key Artistic Achievements

3.1 This report aims to give a flavour of the artistic achievements of the Companies over the two-year reporting period. The Companies’ websites are also a rich resource for information on programming histories, awards, news and successes.

The National Theatre of Scotland


3.2 The financial year 2016/17 began with Granite, the culmination of seven month’s community engagement in Aberdeen. This was followed by Laurie Sansom’s last production for the Company performed in Perthshire, The 306: Dawn, which marked the start of a 3-year collaboration with 14-18 NOW commemorating the 100 years since World War One. The Company also took part in the UK-wide theatre event by Jeremy Deller We are Here Because We’re Here, which brought together over 40 young men between 18 and 45 to walk in silence through the streets of Glasgow and Shetland, each representing a soldier who fell in the Battle of the Somme.

3.3 In co-production with The TEAM, Anything that Gives Off Light was premiered at the Edinburgh International Festival, successfully sowing the seed for future partnerships. In international touring The Strange Undoing of Prudentia Hart was revived for touring in North America and across the UK, including an award winning run at the National Theatre in London, before extending its reach to Australia and culminating in a six month residency at the McKittick Hotel in New York.

3.4 The Talent Development Programme supported over 120 participants, including a range of artists who reflect the Company’s diversity priorities; Gaelic, BAME (Black Asian and Minority Ethnic) and Disability. The Learn programme continued to provide opportunities for people of all ages and abilities engaging over 10,000 people. Events included the Exchange youth theatre festival in Stirling, and Home Away which partnered with groups from Brisbane, Chicago, New Delhi, Kingston, Jamaica, Dundee, South Uist, Tomintoul, Glasgow and Rio de Janeiro.


3.5 The financial year 2017/18 represented an artistic transition year for the National Theatre of Scotland with new Artistic Director, Jackie Wylie, starting her role in March 2017.

3.6 New productions included Cora Bisset and Frances Poet’s Adam, focusing on the real life story of Adam Kashmiri, a young trans man from Egypt who had to travel to Glasgow in order to transition. Both this work and Eve, Jo Clifford’s autobiographical one woman production, gained critical acclaim and international interest. Graham Eatough’s How To Act challenged form and audience bias during the Fringe Festival and The Whip Hand, The Last Queen of Scotland and This Restless House featured in the Fringe Festival and EIF respectively with the Company’s support. Supporting underrepresented voices is a key tenet of the company’s work and the support for Last Tango in Partick confirmed support for original as well as new Scottish cultures.

3.7 The National Theatre of Scotland continues to be committed to participatory work, producing two major Scottish works in 2017/18. The first, Submarine Time Machine, was an opportunity for the organisation to engage with its local community at its new creation space of Rockvilla. The second, Shift (spanning 2017/18 and 2018/19) looked at the reality of work in North Lanarkshire and attempted to imagine the future work of those citizens.

3.8 2017/18 saw the continued success of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart in New York’s McKittrick Hotel as well as Let The Right One In and Room playing at the Abbey in Dublin. Our Ladies of Perpetual Succour enjoyed a West End run under the aegis of Sonia Friedman Productions. Successful youth engagement programme Jump had a British Council supported iteration in Jamaica.

3.9 2017/18 was the second year of the three year pilot of Theatre in Schools Scotland, whereby National Theatre of Scotland and the Edinburgh Children’s Festival, in collaboration with Catherine Wheels, Visible Fictions and Starcatchers theatre companies created and toured work into Scotland’s primary schools. Also for children, the company produced Rocket Post using a combination of English and Gaelic. The production premiered in Stornoway before touring around the country. It was also digitally captured in collaboration with the Space so that it could reach remote communities. Also touring rurally, often in non-theatre venues was 306:Day, the second part of the trilogy commissioned by 1418 Now in collaboration with Horsecross Theatre.

The Royal Scottish National Orchestra


3.10 The 2016/17 financial year saw the Orchestra tour internationally to Spain and Florida, the Orchestra’s first American tour in over 35 years. The Company also launched Music for Life, a learning and engagement programme featuring high-quality orchestral music for people at every stage of their lives from early years to retirement. A vital strand of the programme was the RSNO National Schools Concerts Programme in Glasgow. Over 1,800 school children attended the inaugural schools concerts in the RSNO Centre in November 2016. The Orchestra furthermore contributed to the new Scottish Baby Box project by supplying a free link to the Astar App, making classical music available to all of Scotland’s parents and their babies.

3.11 Artistically the Season had a focus on the Beethoven piano concerti and the great Russian masters, as well as Mahler Symphonies 1 and 3. New works by Martin Suckling, Gerald Barry and Sally Beamish were commissioned and performed, while also championing young composers through Notes from Scotland and the Composers’ Hub.


3.12 In 2017/18, Peter Oundjian’s final season started with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring and closed with Mahler’s Ninth Symphony. The Orchestra explored the music of Strauss and Brahms with Music Director Designate Thomas Søndergård as the RSNO begin to build towards Thomas’ first season as Music Director. The 175th anniversary of the adult chorus and 40th anniversary of the Junior Chorus was also marked. Under the guidance of Chorus Director Gregory Batsleer, the RSNO Chorus has made significant strides over the last year in terms of recruitment, artistic development and number and breadth of performances.

3.13 The Orchestra’s national and international profile continued to attract world class guest artists, including British conductors Edward Gardner OBE and Sir Roger Norrington, Cristian Măcelaru, RSNO Principal Guest Conductor and Music Director Designate Thomas Søndergård, conductor John Storgårds (Finland); conductor Karl-Heinz Steffens (Germany) and Lorenzo Viotti (Italy).

3.14 The RSNO has become synonymous with performing film music and live score performances and the Orchestra continues to expand this area of their work with a formalised three-year partnership with the Edinburgh International Film Festival. In addition to this popular programme, 65 recording sessions were also held, which produced 13 discs.

Scottish Ballet


3.15 The artistic programme for 2016/17 continued to draw international talents to Scotland including David Dawson (Germany), Crystal Pite (Canada) and Angelin Preljocaj (France). New commissions included those by Scottish Ballet’s CEO/Artistic Director Christopher Hampson and dancer/choreographer Sophie Laplane. Swan Lake was a commission for the full company and orchestra of Scottish Ballet and the onward tour also marked the Company’s first visit to Liverpool in more than two decades. A contrasting double-bill MC14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) and the European premiere of Emergence was presented at the Edinburgh International Festival.

3.16 In addition, the World Premiere of Sophie Laplane’s Sibilo was presented and performed alongside Scottish independent choreographer, Jack Webb’s Drawn to Drone and Crystal Pite’s Emergence. The year finished with Christopher Hampson’s Hansel & Gretel; a tour, involving 56 full-scale performances five performances of the Wee Hansel & Gretel (adapted for families with young children) and one relaxed performance (specially adapted for people with additional needs).

3.17 During 16/17, Scottish Ballet continued to build its capacity within the digital arena, commissioning work for an inaugural Digital Season and launching a new website that received a Bronze Award at the international Lovie Awards. A new short film Maze, directed by in-house film maker Eve McConnachie, premiered at the Glasgow short film festival and went on to be selected at festivals in the UK and internationally; winning Best Screendance Short Under 10 Minutes at the 2016 San Francisco Dance Film Festival.

3.18 The Engagement team continues to work with a range of participants aged from 18 months to 80+ years and presented a wide variety of opportunities to access the Company and its work; ranging from special projects designed to engage with new audiences, groups and art forms to classes, workshops and illustrated talks. The engagement team continued to deliver a highly successful Dance for Parkinson’s Scotland ( DPS) programme and Regenerate classes for people aged 60+, and in October 2017 launching a new three-year (2017-2020) Dementia Friendly Dance programme. Scottish Ballet’s engagement director also joined a Ministerial Delegation to China organised by the British Council to support the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. The purpose of the visit was to build cultural partnership with organisations in Shanghai and Beijing and to promote Scottish culture.

3.19 In March 2017, 14 young dancers travelled to New York as part of Scottish Ballet’s Youth Exchange. Participants worked daily with young American dancers from Tisch School of the Arts ( NYU) creating a new piece for performance at the Joyce Theatre. This project was part of the Scottish Ballet wider American tour in Spring 2017, including Minneapolis, New York and California with A Streetcar Named Desire, Highland Fling, and a triple bill: Sinfonietta Giocosa/ Motion of Displacement/ Ten Poems. As part of her trip to New York, Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, welcomed the Company with a special reception and on return to Scotland, invited the young dancers to a reception at Bute House.


3.20 Scottish Ballet’s 2017/18 Season featured a diverse programme including the Digital Season, an American tour as well as performances in London, and a Stravinsky double bill. For its second appearance at Dance International Glasgow, Scottish Ballet performed a World Premiere by Dutch and Israeli choreographic partnership Ivgi & Greben. The new work was a co-commission with Tramway. Scottish Ballet also marked the 25th anniversary of the death of Scottish-born choreographer Sir Kenneth MacMillan with a re-creation of his early narrative work Le Baiser de la Fée, paired in contrast with Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. As part of the MacMillan anniversary, the company was invited to make its debut at The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, with performances of Le Baiser de la Fée. Scottish Ballet, appeared alongside the UK’s other national ballet companies in this special programme of MacMillan works.

3.21 Following the premiere performances at the Edinburgh International Festival in 2016, Emergence and MC 14/22 (Ceci est mon corps) went on to tour in 2017 to London’s Sadler’s Wells. Christmas 2017 saw the return of Scottish Ballet’s much-loved production of The Nutcracker by the Company’s founding Artistic Director, Peter Darrell. This was the Company’s most successful Scottish tour to date, seen by over 68,000 people over nine weeks.

3.22 Scottish Ballet’s inaugural Digital Season, Under the Skin, launched in Spring 2017 exploring digital formats as a new way to present dance. The Digital Season’s pioneering projects reached 3.2 million users worldwide. It marked the first time a ballet company has curated a month-long programme of bespoke projects exclusively for the digital world.

Scottish Chamber Orchestra


3.23 In 2016/17 the Orchestra planned and delivered a programme of concerts and activity in Scotland and abroad. Within Scotland the Orchestra performed across principal venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Dumfries and St Andrews and delivered the Perth Series (with the RSNO and BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra as mentioned previously ) as well as promoting chamber concerts in the Queen’s Hall. There was extensive Scottish touring to the Highlands and South of Scotland as well as the Autumn Classics across Central Scotland. The SCO Chorus took part in four concerts with the Orchestra within the Winter Season. In addition, the Chorus gave two further concerts in Greyfriars Kirk in Edinburgh.

3.24 Internationally the Orchestra performed at the Wurzburg Mozart Festival and went on to tour extensively across Europe including Salzburg, Aix-en-Provence, Paris, Toulouse, Pamplona, Luxembourg and Rotterdam. They also performed concerts at the Edinburgh International Festival including the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert.

3.25 Martin Suckling’s Six Speechless Songs performance was followed by the premier of his Piano Concerto and James MacMillan’s horn quintet Concertino for Horn and Strings was closely followed by his Stabat Mater. In between, a celebration of Peter Maxwell Davies highlighted the late composer’s defining relationship with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra .

3.26 SCO Connect activities were spread across the country with a variety of established work such as Masterworks, Big Ears Little Ears and SCO Vibe. In addition the Orchestra focused activity in primary schools in Wester Hailes, Edinburgh and Rattray, Perthshire. SCO ReConnect made further progress and the Orchestra also continued to deliver a broad range of activity within its residency at the University of St Andrews.


3.27 For its main 2017/18 Winter Season in Scotland – the ninth and final season with current Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati - the orchestra promoted 78 concerts in its principal venues in Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen, Inverness, Dumfries and St Andrews alongside the St Andrews and Queen’s Hall chamber series.

3.28 The SCO’s commitment to supporting living composers through the commissioning and performance of new music was evident during the year with world premiere performances of young Scottish composer Tom Harrold’s To The Light and Sir James MacMillan’s Saxophone Concerto. In addition, the Orchestra gave the Scottish premiere performances of Pēteris Vasks’ Viola Concerto.

3.29 For the 39th consecutive year, the Orchestra undertook an extensive tour of the Highlands and South of Scotland - including four concerts in Shetland – as well as its Autumn Classics series across central Scotland. In addition, 14 engagements were fulfilled in various locations including Ayr, Inverness and Fife as part of the East Neuk Festival.

3.30 In August, the SCO gave a highly successful concert at the Royal Albert Hall as part of the BBC Proms, as well as three concerts in the Edinburgh International Festival’s 70th anniversary programme. This included both the opening concert in the Usher Hall and the Virgin Money Fireworks Concert which ends the Festival each year with an estimated audience of c. 250,000 people across Edinburgh and surrounding regions.

3.31 The SCO undertook to record the complete symphonies of Johannes Brahms with Principal Conductor Robin Ticciati and longstanding partners Linn Records, which were released commercially in March 2018.

3.32 In support of its strategic objective to develop reach and encourage more young people to attend concerts, the Orchestra announced a new initiative offering free tickets to under 18s. Across both years Big Ears, Little Ears saw performances as far afield as Lerwick in Shetland and the newly restored St Cecilia’s Hall, University of Edinburgh.

3.33 The Rattray Primary School Residency, which concluded in 2017, was a creative project that embedded the Orchestra within the day-to-day life of the community. SCO musicians worked with every pupil and teacher in Rattray Primary School over two years, introducing them to orchestral and digital instruments and creating new music together. Each year, pupils performed at Perth Concert Hall.

3.34 This year a new strategy was announced for Masterworks to involve all 32 Scottish local authorities over a three-year cycle, and to include students with additional support needs in workshops and concerts.

3.35 In October 2017, SCO musicians launched a new three-year programme with a SCO Family Day at WHALE Arts in Wester Hailes in Edinburgh and Chris Jarvis agreed to become the wider SCO Residency Champion. The SCO Family Concert in 2018 was The Chimpanzees of Happytown.

3.36 SCO ReConnect continued to provide a series of music workshops for people with dementia and a new music commission for the Scottish Borders Heritage Festival 2017, Sounding out the Past, was delivered. Following a series of successful SCO VIBE courses in Edinburgh since 2013, SCO VIBE was launched in Glasgow in 2016 , and St Andrews and Aberdeen in 2017. The SCO’son-going residency in St Andrews included the launch of the new Children’s Orchestra.

3.37 In 2017/18, following an extensive and thorough organisational review in 2016/17, a new five-year Strategic Plan (2017-22) was agreed by the Board with the Vision

to be universally recognised as a dynamic and inspirational chamber orchestra – open, accessible and inclusive, easy to engage with, confident, innovative, contemporary and courageous, achieving the highest levels of excellence in everything we do’.

Scottish Opera


3.38 During the financial year 2016/17, Scottish Opera presented six mainstage productions, including a revival, a restaging, three co-productions, a world premiere, a Scottish premiere and two works commissioned by the Company.

3.39 Stuart Stratford conducted his first production since taking up post as Music Director with performances of Dvořák’s Rusalka, directed by Antony McDonald. The 2016/17 Season was brought to a close with a new co-production with D’Oyly Carte Opera Company of Gilbert & Sullivan’s popular The Mikado, directed by Martin Lloyd-Evans, which toured to Belfast, Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton following performances in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Inverness.

3.40 Sir Thomas Allen’s popular production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro opened the 2017/18 Season, conducted by Tobias Ringborg and with former Emerging Artist Ben McAteer returning to sing the title role.

3.41 As well as touring Scotland, Figaro was presented at the Empire Theatre in Liverpool, the Company’s first visit to the city in over 12 years. With The Marriage of Figaro, Scottish Opera also presented the first Dementia Friendly ( DF) performance of an opera in the UK, working closely with colleagues at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre in an initiative that developed from the Company’s Memory Spinners programme. Further DF performances – of La bohème and La traviata – have since followed.

3.42 Philip Glass’ The Trial, which Scottish Opera co-commissioned with Music Theatre Wales, the Royal Opera and Theater Magdeburg, received its Scottish premiere performances in Glasgow and Edinburgh in early 2017. It was followed by a new production of Debussy’s Pélleas and Mélisande, directed by Sir David MacVicar and conducted by Stuart Stratford, which won the UK Theatre Award for Achievement in Opera. A unique double bill, created with innovative Scottish theatre company, Vanishing Point, was directed by Matthew Lenton and conducted by Sian Edwards. This saw Bartòk’s Bluebeard’s Castle, featuring renowned Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill, paired with a new commission The 8 th Door with music composed by Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson.

3.43 Stuart Stratford stamped his mark on the Orchestra’s Sunday Series which, in the 2016/17 Season, focused on concert performances of rarely performed operas, including Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz and Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue. The Orchestra’s working conditions were significantly improved with the opening of the Silver Cloud Rehearsal Studio in Hillington, made possible by The Monument Trust.

3.44 The commitment to touring to smaller and more remote communities continued with Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love to 17 venues across Scotland in Autumn 2016, and Opera Highlights visited 15 towns and villages in Spring 2017. Performances of Pop-up Opera in the trailer ‘theatre on wheels’ extended the performance reach even further, as did the huge range of education and outreach work across the country, all of which aimed to ignite and sustain interest in opera and to encourage creativity.


3.45 In the 2017/18 financial year, the 2016/17 Season closed with a new co-production, with Theater St Gallen, Switzerland, of Puccini’s La bohème. Director-designer team Renaud Doucet and André Barbe’s vibrant staging was inspired by the flea markets of Paris and the Jazz-Age of Josephine Baker.

3.46 Summer 2017 witnessed the Company premiering starkly contrasting new productions at the Manchester and Edinburgh International Festivals. BambinO, an opera for 6 to 12 month old babies, composed by Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson and directed by Phelim MacDermott, opened in Manchester before enjoying sell-out runs at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe and in Glasgow. Scottish Opera gave two performances at the 70 th Edinburgh International Festival of a new co-production (with Opera Ventures) of Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek, directed by Joe Hill-Gibbins and conducted by Stuart Stratford.

3.47 The 2017/18 Season was launched with a revival of Sir David McVicar’s La traviata, conducted by David Parry and Dane Lam. The performance of La traviata on 28 November 2017, in the presence of TRH The Duke and Duchess of

3.48 Gloucester, marked the 150 th Anniversary of the opening of the Theatre Royal Glasgow. Jonathon Dove’s Flight received its Scottish professional premiere in Stephen Barlow’s production which was followed by a new co-production, with Investec Opera Holland Park, of Richard Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, directed and designed by Antony McDonald and conducted by Brad Cohen. Glasgow performances were preceded by a special foyer performance of Grace Notes, a new work by Composer in Residence Samuel Bardoli with a libretto by Bernard MacLaverty and performed by Emerging Artist Catherine Backhouse and musicians from The Orchestra of Scottish Opera.

3.49 The Opera in Concert Series for the 2017/18 Season had a Russian theme featuring works by Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. Opera Highlights toured to 30 venues across Scotland and the cast gave a Facebook Live broadcast from the Isle of Islay as part of the BBC’s Opera Passion Day, in which Scottish Opera was a partner. The Pop-up Opera trailer visited locations across Scotland and the Company launched Scotland’s first floating opera house with the Murray McDavid, a converted pilot cutter, hosting performances in marinas down the Clyde.

3.50 Over these two years, the Education and Outreach Department’s ever-popular Primary Schools Tour was enjoyed by nearly 20,000 participants, and the team travelled to schools in Hong Kong and Beijing, including a performance involving over 900 children at the Fang Cao Di School in October 2017. Hanban, the headquarters of Confucius Institutes worldwide, awarded Confucius Classroom status to Scottish Opera in September 2017, the first opera company in the world to be selected for this accolade.

3.51 The Little White Town of Never Weary was presented across Scotland as part of the 2016 Year of Architecture and Design. In 2016, youth company Connect presented The Cabinet of Dr Caligari in Glasgow, performed at the Aberdeen International Youth Festival and at the prestigious International Society for Music Education Conference in Glasgow and, in 2017, appeared at The Beacon in Greenock with Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. The winners of the Opera Sparks competition for young composers and librettists were announced – their works will be performed by the Connect Company in 2018.