Scottish Opera Young Company in Weill première

Published: 29 July 2021
Reporter: Vera Liber

The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken

Scottish Opera’s Young Company, a training programme for 17- to 23-year-olds, will perform live outdoors as part of Live at No. 40 at Scottish Opera’s Production Studio car park in Glasgow. Directed by Roxana Haines (La bohème 2020, Così fan tutte 2020, L’elisir d’amore 2021), the Young Company will perform the Scottish première of Kurt Weill’s absurd one-act comedy, The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken, on 31 July and 1 August 2021.

With Aidan Edwards and Shuna Scott Sendall in lead roles, Scottish Opera Young Company Artistic Director Chris Gray will conduct, with stage designs by Anna Orton and libretto by Georg Kaiser in an English translation by Leo Doulton.

Kurt Weill left Germany in 1933, never to return, and spent the remainder of his life and career in the USA. As a result, the first UK performance of The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken (which was composed in 1927) did not take place until 1986 at the Bloomsbury Theatre, London. This production is the Scottish première.

The story is set in Madame Angèle’s photo studio in Paris. She receives a phone call telling her the Tsar will be arriving shortly to have his photograph taken, but nobody knows who invited him. What unfolds is that a gang are planning an assassination attempt on the Tsar.

Director Haines explained, "Georg Kaiser was an expressionist playwright, collaborating with Kurt Weill in a time when reality couldn't express the horrors and chaos of the world through words. We've utilised this to make roles for our young company, with personified inanimate objects emoting in the photography studio and a fake news team commenting with emojis and trying to catch the assassination shot. The setting has been modernised to a time where everyone is watching everyone else, through live camera feeds, CCTV and silly bugging devices. The show is absurd, unapologetic and joyful, with, for example, the lingering sense of an episode of Charlie Brooker's Black Mirror."