Composer Julian Wagstaff has just finished writing and producing a new chamber opera entitled Breathe Freely. The work is approximately 40 minutes in duration and was commissioned by the University of Edinburgh to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its School of Chemistry in 2013. The new opera is set in Edinburgh in the closing stages of the Second World War, and takes its name from a book of the same name written by Professor James Kendall in 1938 on the subject of poison gas - what we would today refer to as 'chemical weapons'.
Based in fact, the opera tells the story of Lieutenant Stanisław Hempel, a Polish officer, chemist and former revolutionary socialist who came to Scotland in 1943 and was given a laboratory by Kendall. The opera's lineup of characters is completed by Dr Chrissie Miller, the first female chemist to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.
Breathe Freely addresses moral issues surrounding the role of scientists in war and peacetime, although the work has many lighter and comic moments too.
Click Here to read a recent news article about the opera in the Scotsman newspaper.
The opera enjoyed a highly successful first performance in Edinburgh's Assembly Rooms on 24 October 2013 in front of a near-capacity crowd, in a production supported by Scottish Opera and conducted by the company's Head of Music, Derek Clark. The opera enjoyed widespread media coverage in Scotland, including in the Scotsman and Herald newspapers, The List and Music News Scotland magazines, on Janice Forsyth's programme The Culture Studio on BBC Radio Scotland and many more.
Click Here to download the souvenir programme from the 2013 production in PDF format (all rights reserved).
Laura Margaret Smith - mezzo-soprano
Nigel Robson - tenor
Phil Gault - baritone
Pete Furniss - clarinet
Su-a Lee - cello
Andrew Johnston - piano
Conductor - Derek Clark
Director - Omar Shahryar
Technical Manager - David Pammenter
Repetiteur - Silviya Mihaylova
Graphics by Justyna Wojcicka
Produced by Julian Wagstaff for Edinburgh University School of Chemistry.
Main sponsor: The University of Edinburgh
We are grateful to the following commercial companies for their generous sponsorship and support of this project:
We are grateful to the following trusts and foundations for their generous support:
The Hinrichsen Foundation
The Tekoa Trust
The JTH Charitable Trust