Scottish Opera Company (1962 - 87)



 3.  Screw1


4.  Sinner

5.  Screw 4

6. Otello

7. Rheingold

8.   Mesitersinger

9. Vixen


Scottish Opera: a new company and a source of stage material for Ayr,

1.  Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995), founder, in 1962, and first artistic director of Scottish Opera

Date:  ca1965
Photographer: Unknown.  Reproduced by

2.    Brochure for the fourth season of opera in Glasgow.

Date: 1965
Photographer: Photographer and designer unknown.  Published by Scottish Opera.

3.  Scene from the 1975 Scottish Opera revival of Benjamin Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' with Nan Christie as Flora and Johnathan Peter Kenny as Miles,  Designs by John Stoddart.

Date: 1975
Photographer: Unknown. Reproduced from the Opera Archive.

4.  Scene from the Scottish Opera production of Thomas Wilson's 'Confessions of a Justified Sinner' with Phillip Langrdige as the Justified Sinner and Linda Ormiston as Mts Colwan.  Designed by Alexander McPherson

Date: 1976
Photographer: Unknown.  Reproduced in the Opera Archive.

5.  Scene from the 1975 Scottish Opera revival of Benjamin Britten's 'Turn of the Screw' with Nan Christie as Flora and Johnathan Peter Kenny as Miles,  Designs by John Stoddart

Date: 1975
Photographer: Unknown.  Reproduced from the Opera Archive

Charles Craig as Otello and Peter Glossop as Iago in the 1963 Scottish Opera production of Guiseppe Verdi's Otello

Date: 1963
Photographer: Unknown. 

David Ward as Wotan with Anna Reynolds as Fricka , Catharine Wilson as Freia. William McCue and SImon Estes as the giants in Scottish Opera's production of Richard Wagner's Das Rheingold.

Date: 1967
Photographer: Unknown.  Reproduced in opera archive 

The Prize Song in David Pountney's in Scottish Opera production of Richard Wagner's 'Die Meistersinger von Nurnberg'.

Date: 1976
Photographer: Unknown.  Scottish Opera archive.

9.  The Scottish Opera 2011 revival of Janacek's 'Cunning Little Vixen' with the 1987 designs by Maria Bjornson

Date: 2011
Photographer: Unknown

Top ~ Sir Alexander Gibson

Scottish Opera,

Scottish Opera is the national opera company of Scotland, and one of the five national performing arts companies funded by the Scottish Government.   Founded in 1962 and based in Glasgow, it is the largest performing arts organisation in Scotland.

Scottish Opera was founded by conductor Alexander Gibson in 1962 with a brief series of performances at the Kings Theatre in Glasgow.  Drawing heavily on the resources of the Scottish National Orchestra and the London based Sadler's Wells Opera Company, the first season opened with Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande

Until 1975, when it purchased the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, the company produced a wide variety of works in the Kings Theatre, often taking productions on to Edinburgh and Aberdeen, and, on occasions, furth of Scotland.  Les Troyens (1969), Wagner's first complete Ring Cycle outside London in fifty years (1971) and Tristan und Isolde (1973) followed on the early successes as the company developed a secure Scottish base.   Peter Hemmings became the company administrator and worked closely with Gibson in the development of the company and the promotion of opera within Scotland.

Sir Alexander Gibson (1926-1995)

Alexander Gibson was born in Motherwell. He studied at the University of Glasgow and the Royal Scottish Academy of Music. He was appointed Sadler's Wells' youngest Music Director in 1957 where he conducted a total of twenty-six operas, making his Covent Garden debut in the same year conducting Puccini's Tosca.

Gibson returned to Scotland in 1959 to become the principal conductor of the Scottish National Orchestra. He founded Scottish Opera in 1962. The first season opened at the King's Theatre, Glasgow, with Puccini's Madama Butterfly and Debussy's Pelleas and Melisande. The following years saw a period of remarkable growth and artistic achievement. Among the highlights were a famous run of Cosi fan tutte (1967) with Janet Baker and Elizabeth Harwood.

During the early years of Scottish Opera, numerous chorus and part time chorus members had links with Ayr through the Arran Choir.

In 1975, when Scottish Opera moved to its permanent home, the Theatre Royal in Glasgow, Gibson continued as Music Director.  Shortly before the move to the Theatre Royal and the the opening of new workshops for the company, some of the scenery stock built for the smaller Kings Theatre were disposed of.  Through the good offices of Stewart Crosbie, the company's stage manager and a former member of the Arran Choir, much of this surplus material was acquired for Ayr Intimate Opere, to be recycled and incorporated into a variety of different sets over the years.  The designs by Ralph Koltai lay at the core of this collection and were adapted for numerous productions at Craigie College, AYr Civic Theatre and Ayr Pavilion.

Stored at premises in Garden Street, or in the Pavilion itself, most of this material was lost when the Garden Street site was redeveloped to house the Asda store, now TKMax.  A stock of costumes, originally designed for the Covent Garden production of Der Freischutz were also acquired by Ayr Intimate Opera, passing through the hands of Scottish Opera, before going into secure storage at Doonholm.  The costume collection passed into the hands of Opera West.  The current location of this costume material is unknown.

Ralph Koltaia, Stage Designer.
Ralph Koltai CBE RDI

Ralph Koltai CBE RDI is Britain’s senior and most celebrated Theatre Designer.

Apart from his freelance work, he was closely associated with both the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. As one of the many London-based designers working with Sadller's Wells, he contributed work to early seasons by Scottish Opera between 1963 and 1977, notably the productions of Don Giovanni, Boris Goudonov and Otello. Material from each of these projects came to Ayr and was reused in a variety of settings devised, for the most part, by Bill Grierson.

Koltai was the subject of the first touring exhibition originated by the Maclaurin Trust.  A close collaboration with the designer, this exhibition concentrated on Koltai's work with the RSC and National Theatre in the late 1970s and highlighted work submitted to the 1979 Prague Quadriennale International Exhibition of Scenography where he, and a group of fellow designers, gained the premier award.

[Text based, in part, on The Glasgow Story, the Opera Archive, personal memories and other material in the public domain.]