A fishy tale from Scottish Opera

Director Antonia Bain and soprano Charlie Drummond during the filming of The Narcissistic Fish. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit Julie Broadfoot.

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The Narcissistic Fish composer, Samuel Bordoli. Scottish Opera 2018. Credit James Glossop.

On June 18, Scottish Opera is premiering The Narcissistic Fish, a new 12-minute film that is a collaboration between Scottish Opera’s Composer in Residence Samuel Bordoli, Scottish poet and novelist Jenni Fagan (The Panopticon) and Scottish Opera’s in-house filmmaker, Antonia Bain.

Set in the kitchen of a restaurant called The Narcissistic Fish, in the Leith area of Edinburgh, the opera tells the story of the stormy relationship between chefs Angus, Kai and Belle, and touches on the themes of narcissism, gender bias and class.

The concept of the film was first conceived by Antonia and Samuel two years ago, who had the idea of creating a narrative set in a commercial kitchen.

Soprano Charlie Drummond and baritone Arthur Bruce during the filming of The Narcissistic Fish. Scottish Opera 2020. Credit Julie Broadfoot.

It features three of the Company’s 2019/20 Emerging Artists, baritones Arthur Bruce and Mark Nathan and soprano Charlie Drummond, singing over a digitally created score, that incorporates real sounds from a kitchen as percussion. As well as being able to view the film online, a digital programme will be available to download, along with photos, trailers and interviews with the cast and creative team.

The very first work in Scottish Opera’s new Opera Shorts initiative – opera created by a wide range of artists using digital technologies – The Narcissistic Fish will be screened on the Company’s website and social media channels.

The libretto, written in Scots, was completed first by Jenni, followed by extensive storyboarding, then Samuel composed the vocal music, with basic harmonic templates underneath. Vocals were then recorded to a click track, allowing the cast to sing along to their own recordings during the shoot, which took place at the end of last year at Parkhouse Business Park, in north Glasgow. Samuel then composed the rest of the score underneath the first edit allowing him to react to the visual stimulus of the film.

Antonia Bain said: ‘Since joining Scottish Opera in 2015, I have always wanted to present opera in a digital format that would be a piece in itself rather than to promote our stage shows or be based on an existing opera: a brand new piece of digital operatic work that would appeal to new audiences, as well as existing ones.

Jenni Fagan. Credit Urszula Soltys.

‘When we found Jenni Fagan, we gave her the location and number of characters and she delivered an exciting, fresh, and engaging plot and libretto.

‘Her decision to write this in Scots really throws the audience into the heart of the action, but she has also managed to create an opera which I find to be dramatic, funny at moments but genuinely emotionally charged which is exactly what you want in an opera.’

To watch The Narcissistic Fish on June 18, visit www.scottishopera.org.uk

Thanks go to everyone in the Scottish Opera Team, Scottish Opera Emerging Artists Benefactors, Idlewild Trust, Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and Andrew Lockyer for their assistance in making the film.