For seasoned opera goers, the phrase ‘Community Opera’ can conjure up all sorts of feelings – not all good. These projects can sometimes be well-meaning, worthy and just a bit dull unless you are taking part, or a parent of a young performer.

Citizens Theatre Publicity
Citizens Theatre Publicity

So it is a delight to report that the double bill of short community operas at the Glasgow Citizens was none of these things. It was an absolutely sparkling evening, as evidenced by the electric buzz in the foyer afterwards.

On The Rim of the World by Orlando Gough was first on the bill, co-commissioned by all the main UK opera companies who have been performing it ‘in their own way’ ever since. Glasgow’s turn drew on the well established Citizens Community Theatre together with 30 children from schools across the Gorbals also picked to take part. Using the professional resources of the Citizens and Scottish Opera, and a visit from the Composer himself, this piece about children too awake for bedtime was worked up into a very special show.

With upbeat and singable music, we were taken on a journey into sleep with nightmare giant chickens, and a circus. In a nice touch, the Dads were left at home coping with babies and the lively children while the Mums got a night out.

The stars of this show were the 50 strong ensemble who acted, danced and sang their hearts out. With an able band in the pit, which included a saxophone and an accordion, there was so much to like in this wonderfully imaginative show.

The second opera, Dr Ferret’s Bad Medicine Show written by Stephen Deazley was commissioned by Scottish Opera to showcase the talents of the young group of under 22s they have been quietly working with for the past few years. Based on Hilaire Belloc’s Cautionary Tales, we were told the much-loved stories about Henry King and the string, Jim and the lion, George’s dangerous balloon and Matilda’s lies.

The music was light and catchy with lots of singing for everyone. Like the first piece, singing, and stagecraft were spot on. Scottish Opera’s orchestra played the intriguing score with relish. There was a massive array of percussion set out along the side wall, and watching Jay Allen get round it all was a show in itself. This charming opera deserves to be performed again for a wider audience.

Most importantly, apart from being real fun for performers and listeners, this demonstrated how two national professional companies can work together, and can involve performers from the wider community to produce something very special. Coming soon after Scottish Opera’s collaboration with RSAMD on The Cunning Little Vixen, this can only be good for future arts in Scotland.