• William J A Parker

Anthropocene World Premiere Teaser

Updated: Aug 3, 2019

A long way from home frozen into a winter artic ice field, will a team of expeditionary scientists and their crew be able to keep their heads when they discover something in the ice which is to challenge their beliefs and view of the world? With communications down and the seemingly impossible becoming a very real reality, as tensions between the inhabitants of the boat rise, will they have the audacity and will to survive? Strap in because this is the world premiere of composer Stuart MacRae and librettist Louise Welsh's "Anthropocene".

Composer Stuart MacRae (left) and librettist Louise Welsh (right)

Stuart MacRae is a Scottish composer born in Inverness and at this stage in his career can be said to be a very experienced and notable operatic talent, already bringing to the stage The Assassin Tree, Remembrance Day and Ghost Patrol. MacRae is particularly interested in aspects of the natural world and the relationships and experiences humans have with these phenomenons, and so Anthropocene, commissioned by Scottish Opera, with all it's icy coldness in which nature almost fights back against humanity can be said to be no exception. With growing concern for the warming of our global climate and the consequent melting of much of our ancient artic ice, the sad reality perhaps is that a situation where a team of expeditionaries are trapped into an ice field is almost certainly not likely (or even possible). Louise Welsh is an English-born author of various short stories and gripping psychological thrillers. She has written eight novels including, The Cutting Room, Death is a Welcome Guest and No Dominion, she is the editor of Ghost, One Hundred Stories to Read with the Lights On (2016) and was awarded an Honorary Doctor of Arts by Edinburgh Napier University (2015), as well as becoming The University of Otago’s Scottish Writers Fellow at the Wallace Arts Centre in New Zealand (2016). In terms of opera, Louise has made her mark with a total of four operatic libretti, including and most recently this collaboration with MacRae in Anthropocene.  

Anthropocene in rehearsal with Scottish Opera. Credit © Nadine Boyd

Anthropocene opens with a team of scientists having journeyed by boat to the north of Greenland to collect samples of the artic ice. Along with them also loom various other characters such as the financial backer of the project and his daughter, as well as various boat crew and a journalist documenting the expedition. With the artic winter now imminent, the group are eager to leave however despite this, several members of the expedition team are still not aboard the ship... "We cannot wait for your husband, or the others, we must make for deeper waters!". "I will not leave a single soul behind!" "We must make for deeper waters or be trapped here all winter in endless night!" "I will not abandon them..."  "Then you abandon us all". Lagging behind the others, one of the group has discovered something in the ice and appears to be insisting on bringing it aboard. "He hacked it free, He's dragging it here".

Anthropocene in rehearsal with Scottish Opera. Credit © Nadine Boyd

Now frozen into the artic fjord and therefore far too late to escape by boat, meeting the demands of its' discoverer, the team now winch the mysterious ice block on board the ship. In a sudden supernatural turn of events, with no communication with the wider world, the group struggle to get their heads around the presence and implications of their discovery. "I've watched a pink moon rise over the pacific, but never have I seen real wonder until now"... It should never of been there and certainly should of never been still been... conscious... Trapped as they are in this still yet harsh environment, the groups' responses to this new discovery begin to shed light on themselves as people and their individual motivations for their presence on the expedition. Everyone reacts differently and everyone has very different ideas, but will this group be willing to put aside their differences to make the necessary sacrifices in order to escape the cold artic winter? The pressure is on. Check out Scottish Opera's teaser trailer here:

Now take a look at some exclusive photographs from rehearsals © Nadine Boyd:

Finally, here are some reviews of composer Stuart MacRae's previous operas:

"A brilliant new work that makes you think... spine tingling opera".

Opera Britannia 

"Put out the flags, because it's not often one can hail a new opera that integrates a musically taut score into a theatrically effective narrative. An even rarer cause for rejoicing is a new opera during which one can close one's eyes and still hear the text and feel the drama. So it's respect all round for The Devil Inside". 


You can catch a performance of 'Anthropocene' with Scottish Opera on the following dates:

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Thu 24 Jan - Sat 26 Jan 2019

King's Theatre, Edinburgh 

Thu 31 Jan - Sat 2 Feb

Hackney Empire, London

Thu 7 Feb - Sat 9 Feb

What lies beneath the ice?

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