Rubble - Chamber Opera: One Act Chamber Opera by Gareth Williams (libretto by Johnny McKnight)

Research output: Non-textual formComposition

Abstract / Description of output

Rubble was commissioned by Scottish Opera to mark 50 years of their education and outreach work in Scotland, and as part of their 60th season.

Performances Dates - 30th and 31st July 2022 (four live performances)
Performed by Scottish Opera at Scottish Opera, Elmbank Crescent, Glasgow, UK

The chamber opera Rubble unflinchingly tells a story of abuse and neglect at a fictional children’s home in Glasgow, as real life investigations continue to unearth personal accounts of widespread abuse in Scottish children’s homes in the 1980s. The work was created at Scottish Opera, for 3 soloists, the Young Chorus, and an ensemble of 8 players. The work was developed over a period of three years by the creative team of Gareth Williams- composer, Johnny McKnight - Librettist, and Roxanna Haines - Director and herself care experienced.
Through careful ongoing collaboration with art therapist Ruth Switalski , and discussions and sharing with the Scottish Care Inspectorate, the work found a way to deal with difficult material, and yet ultimately celebrate the resilience of young people in Care in the UK. The composer was determined to represent the care-experienced characters with respect, justice, and a fierce sense of hope, whilst engaging the audience with the reality of what was going on, and the damage done to the young people living in situations where abuse and neglect was widespread.
The libretto is written in strong Glaswegian/Scots dialect and the musical language celebrates and investigates these speech rhythms. The post-minimal score draws on materials from classical piano repertoire, beginner piano exercises, scales and arpeggios, nursery rhythms, musical theatre refrains, and operatic structures and tropes. The score and libretto create opportunities for young and early career opera singers to co exist with more experienced singers, as both soloists, and as a chorus, and the plot and narrative of the work utilises the broad age range of the cast to tell a story in the most satisfactory and engaging way possible.

This response to a performance of the opera came from Aileen Nicol, Strategic Inspector (Children and Young People) at the Scottish Care Inspectorate:
‘The storytelling of the individual journeys of care experience and trauma felt authentic and human and vitally has hope running through the core. I came away feeling sad, glad, reflective, admiring, energised in my work and very moved by everything I saw and heard… Rubble is an outstanding experience and contribution.’

Soprano/ Mezzo Soprano/ Tenor/ Chorus (25 - 30 singers between 18 and 25)
Piano/ 2 Percussion/ Accordion/ Violin/ Viola/ Cello/ Double Bass

Link to Archive Filming:

Link to Digital Programme:

“a powerful work that packs an emotional punch and deserves a wider audience”
Opera Now Magazine Oct 2022 **** (4 stars)

“a powerful piece of work”
Vox Carnyx Classical Music Revew (31st July 2022)

“A shatteringly powerful piece”
ScotsGay Arts (5 stars) (2nd August 2022)
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2021


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