Hirda is a new opera for Shetland commissioned and produced by NOISE (New Opera In Scotland Events), supported by Creative Scotland and Shetland Arts. 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 opera will be premièred in Mareel on Thursday 26 November 2015, before touring to three community halls (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 go on sale from Monday 15 June 2015.
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.” 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.' 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 was The Sloans Project.
The opera, which uses Shetland words and dialect (Hirda: 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 Muireall, 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.”
Tickets for all venues go on sale on June 15th. Tickets for the Shetland performances will be available through Shetland Box Office at Mareel & Isleburgh, over the phone on 01595 745555 or online at www.shetlandboxoffice.org