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Environmental murder mystery at music centre

An environmental murder mystery will mark the first opera to take place in the ground-breaking new music centre at the University of St Andrews.

Locust: The Opera, a one-hour chamber opera by Anne Guzzo, will be performed at the Laidlaw Music Centre on Sunday 31 October at 4pm by singers from the Prairie STEAM Collaborative and Colorado Chamber Orchestra and Opera, alongside a group of Scottish musicians including Associate Teachers at the Music Centre.

The performance coincides with the start of the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP 26).

The opera, which premiered at the US National Museum of Wildlife Art in Wyoming, USA, and has been performed in Agadir, Morocco, now comes to Scotland with an environmental mystery at its heart.

Including opportunities for audience participation, Locust explores the mystery of why the enormous gatherings of locusts which plagued 19th century farmers in the US disappeared.

Chris Bragg, Head of Programming at the Laidlaw Music Centre at the University of St Andrews, said: “It’s a great thrill to be able to bring together musicians from both sides of the Atlantic to perform this new mini-opera so relevant to contemporary discussions about how we care for the natural world.

“Anne Guzzo’s gorgeous music and the engaging narrative will ensure this is a wonderful and thought-provoking way to spend a Sunday afternoon, and Ashley Carlisle, the opera’s art director, has created magical costuming that will enchant the audience with the spectral locust.”

The £12.5m Laidlaw Music Centre is a state-of-the-art facility housing an intimate performance venue and rehearsal spaces as well as a high-tech recording facility.

The new music building allows the University to provide first class facilities for talented students who study music at the highest level alongside their main academic studies, as well as create new opportunities for young people to connect with performing arts.

The building, funded through philanthropic support from donors, includes three rehearsal rooms, ten practice rooms, a recording suite, a library and one of the finest chamber recital halls in Scotland, the McPherson Recital Room.

Locust: The Opera will be performed in the McPherson Recital Room which features a specially designed moveable floor that allows adjustment for each performance and a reverberation chamber to ensure the best possible acoustics for a huge variety of musical situations.

Dr Jeffrey Lockwood, Professor of Natural Sciences and Humanities at the University of Wyoming, who wrote the libretto, said: “The opera is an environmental murder mystery. It is the story of the Rocky Mountain locust, an iconic species that blackened the skies in the 1800s with huge swarms but suddenly disappeared forever at the turn of the twentieth century.”

As an entomologist-turned-writer and philosopher, Lockwood believes telling stories through music is one of the best ways to promote scientific literacy and reveal environmental history.

Dr Anne Guzzo, the composer and a professor of music, said: “Jeff’s lyrics are potent, but music provides the emotional lens for me – and perhaps the audience – to truly understand the story and to be moved by its message of caring for the natural world.”

Tickets are available via the Byre box office.


Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office.

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