St Andrews Botanic Garden hosts opera study day

Wednesday 9 May 2018

Opera singers will be performing in St Andrews Botanic Garden in June as part of a University project to encourage people to examine their role in protecting the environment.

Performers from the Byre Opera’s production of Handel’s Xerxes will take part in Xerxes in the Garden, a study day which will use the themes of the opera to discuss relationships between humans and the natural environment.

Botanists and conservationists from the University will give presentations on a variety of issues related to environmental topics raised by the opera.

Dr Richard Bates, one of the key organisers behind the event, said: “This exciting collaboration involving researchers from Biology, Sustainable Development and Geosciences alongside the musicians themselves, is part of the Music Planet project, which has used music to raise awareness of environmental issues and University of St Andrews research.”

Handel’s Xerxes tells the fictional story of the real King of Persia, Xerxes, who used and manipulated people and the natural world around him for his own ends. In the opera, Xerxes builds a lavish garden in a desolate landscape, offering a lens for examining the role of gardens and the engineering of nature within global biodiversity today.

Emeritus Professor Bob Crawford, from the University of St Andrews School of Biology, will open the day’s events with a presentation on how human beings react to environmental uncertainty, stressing the message that the natural world is not just for humanity to exploit.

Professor Thomas Meagher, also of the School of Biology, will then talk about the long-term impacts human beings have made on plant biodiversity in Amazonia, followed by a discussion by Dr Katherine Roucoux and Dr Althea Davies of the School of Geography and Geosciences on how ecosystem history can inform conservation.

Dr Richard Bates of the School of Environmental and Earth Sciences will offer a presentation on mythical locations and how they might be reinterpreted after examining real-life geo-environmental information.

The final presentation will be given by Dr Jane Pettegree, the Music Centre’s Director of Teaching, who will discuss the relationship between 18th century pastoral opera and human attitudes towards the environment.

After lunch, excerpts from the opera will be performed by singers in the Alpine House at the Gardens, with information about the forthcoming production design explained by Tania Holland Williams, Director of the new Byre Opera production, due to be performed in its entirety in the Byre Theatre from 22-24 June. The day will finish with an optional tour of the community garden led by the University’s Transition team – which promotes volunteer involvement in local green projects.

The Xerxes in the Garden study day will take place from 10am to 3pm on Saturday 2 June 2018. Tickets are £3, which includes entrance to the gardens and a soup and sandwich lunch. The music in the Alpine House will be open to regular garden visitors for no extra charge. Tickets are available via the University online shop.

Photo credit: ©Abi Warner/St Andrews Botanic Garden

Notes to news editors/interview requests

Dr Pettegree is available for interview via the Communications Office – contact Fiona MacLeod on 01334 462108, 07714 140 559 or [email protected].

Issued by the University of St Andrews Communications Office, contactable on 01334 46 2530 or [email protected].

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