The Devil Inside – Stuart MacRae (with libretto by Louise Welsh) – Shortlisted Large Scale Work sponsored by PRS for Music

February 20, 2017 in safnm2017 by mwhiteside

Stuart MacRae

  1. How did the piece come about?

Louise Welsh and I had started working together on Scottish Opera’s Five:15 project, writing Remembrance Day, followed a few years later by Ghost Patrol. When Scottish Opera asked us to come up with an idea for a new, full-length opera, we tried out a few ideas but none of them felt exactly right. Then Louise suggested basing our story on The Bottle Imp by Robert Louis Stevenson – a story Louise had known well since childhood, but which was new to me. I loved the mixture of magic and the ever-present threat of damnation with the very real human dilemmas and emotions of the main character – all of this seemed perfect for the operatic medium, with a few adjustments: for our opera we expanded on these experiences and emotions by spreading them among the main characters and revealing them through their interactions, which effectively meant re-writing the story, particularly in the second half. We also updated the setting to the present day and made a completely new ending which brings the drama to its highest point just before the final curtain.

2. What other projects do you have on the go at the moment?

Louise and I are working on a new idea together…also I’ve just written a new piece commissioned by Enterprise Music Scotland for soprano Alison McNeill and guitarist Sasha Savaloni, and The Lammermuir Festival has commissioned a piano trio for this year’s festival.

3. Who are the upcoming Scottish composers to watch?

There are so many! I can’t single anyone out as there’s a wealth of composing talent in Scotland, both young and older, and I’ve had the good fortune to be a teacher or mentor to some of them.

4. What other pieces have you seen this year that you found exciting and will stand the test of time?

I went to see the revival of George Benjamin’s Written on Skin at the Royal Opera House recently and was deeply impressed. Who knows if it will stand the test of time? But for now it’s a great, subtle and very moving work, and it rewrites a lot of the rules of opera without, you know, becoming something other than an opera, which often happens.

5. What is the piece that you would most like to write?

This changes all the time – often, as now, it is the piece I am working on! But I have one big project in mind, for voices and instruments, that plans are coming together for, so hopefully we’ll be seeing that in a few years. I’ve also wanted to write a clarinet concerto and a piano concerto for quite a while; but I don’t think about them too much until I know they’re happening.