The Sloans Project – Opera Review

Rating: ★★★★☆

This review also appears on Opera Britannia’s website.

The Sloans Project is an exciting new opera that has been around for a couple of years but is revived for this year’s Edinburgh Fringe. This performance was one of two being given in its original setting – the Glasgow public house from which its stories derive. It now moves over to Edinburgh in a brave attempt to relocate a piece which has hitherto been regarded as absolutely site specific and tied to its origins. The Sloans Project is an innovative and gripping piece and deserves to succeed in any setting. All parts were played by a quartet of singers accompanied by half a dozen musicians.

We begin, of course, in the bar. Arriving in Sloans on a Wednesday afternoon, it was not immediately obvious that there was any performance scheduled at all. It was simply an old bar room filled with locals drinking. A young chap (in fact the composer, Gareth Williams) sat at the bar with a glass of water and a musical score in front of him, but that was the only clue that a performance was in the offing at all. Suddenly though, he dipped his finger in the water and started circling the glass, making it sing. As he did so, other previously unnoticed members of the company dotted around the bar began to do the same. In moments the whole bar seemed to be singing its own ringing, gathering chord. A woman then appeared through the door and began to sing. It was an electric beginning to a piece which was full of drama.

The Project is not a continuous narrative. Rather, it is a series of five scenes drawn from stories connected with the bar. Three characters re-occur from the first scene in the last, bringing some kind of conclusion to proceedings and the audience is guided from room to room, up and downstairs to a different location for each scene by a Landlady who turns out to be something of a narrator figure. The scenes are drawn from different periods in the history of Sloans. [Read more…]