Opera Scotland

Okavango Macbeth

Music

Tom Cunningham

Text

Alexander McCall Smith

Source

Drama Macbeth (1605-6) by William Shakespeare (1564-1616), reinterpreted.

 

Premieres

First Performance: Gaborone, Botswana (No1 Ladies' Opera House).

First Performance in UK: Cambridge.

First performance in Scotland: Edinburgh.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

Alexander McCall Smith, who became a successfull writer of fiction, after several decades as an eminent academic in Edinburgh, has also spent much of his life in Botswana. Since one of the advantages of Edinburgh life which he missed in Gaborone was the availability of opera, he seems to have decided to write one himself. His chosen subject effectively links his two stamping grounds, in that he elected to translate the basic plot of the Scottish play to a colony of baboons, where the political machinations do not seem out of place. Altogether an entertaining little piece.

For Edinburgh, the original piano accompaniment was rescored by Robert McFall for an exotically different chamber band including a string quartet with harmonium and fortepiano augmented by the sounds of marimba, djembe, saxophone and whistles.

 

Plot Summary

A varied chorus of animals blame the baboons for introducing evil to their idyllic world. The baboon taking the role of Lady Macbeth persuades her intended mate to murder the dominant male. Having achieved this, she is herself consumed by a passing leopard. These events are observed by a semi-comic trio of human primatologists, who are, from time time, observed by the animals, both groups having a rule to watch, but not interfere.

The Cast

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