Julian Wagstaff, Scottish opera Composer (Edinburgh, Scotland, UK)

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Music title
deutsche Version

Breathe Freely - a 'chemistry opera' in two short acts


A high quality studio recording of Julian Wagstaff's chamber opera Breathe Freely has just been released on CD on the Linn Records label. A launch concert was held at the Royal Society of Chemistry in London on Tuesday 13 October 2015.

The CD includes a 68-page full colour booklet, including photographs from the 2013 production, biographies, notes and the complete text of the opera in English and German (translation by Julius Seyfarth). The performers are Laura Margaret Smith (mezzo-soprano), Paul Curievici (tenor), Phil Gault (baritone), Pete Furniss (clarinet), Mark Bailey (cello) and Andrew Johnston (piano). The conductor is Derek Clark.

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, and its likely effects if used in a future war.

A video clip is embedded below (or click here to view on the Vimeo site):

Click Here to download the souvenir programme from the 2013 production in PDF format (all rights reserved).

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 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.

The libretto and vocal score of Breathe Freely are now published by Europa Edition in an attractive, 95-page volume, priced at just GBP 11.99. Click Here to visit the publisher's website (Breathe Freely is towards the bottom of the page), or click on the image (right) to jump directly to the ordering page on PayPal.  

The libretto, piano/vocal score, full score and instrumental parts are also available for immediate download via the SheetMusicPlus platform:
Buy the sheet music for Julian Wagstaff's chamber opera Breathe Freely online today!

Alternatively, the full score and orchestral parts are also available direct from the composer. Just visit the Contact section of the new Julian Wagstaff website at www.julianwagstaff.com

Production Credits (October 2013):

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

Recording Credits (June 2014):

Laura Margaret Smith - mezzo-soprano
Paul Curievici - tenor
Phil Gault - baritone

Pete Furniss - clarinet
Mark Bailey - cello
Andrew Johnston - piano

Repetiteur - Silviya Mihaylova
Conductor - Derek Clark
Producer/Engineer - Calum Malcolm

Recorded at Scottish Opera's production studios, Edington Street, Glasgow.

Supported by Scottish Opera, Edinburgh University School of Chemistry, and Edinburgh University College of Science and Engineering.