Opera funds cast of 60 with 'sponsor a character' scheme

When it comes to staging a classic comic opera, the costs can be far from funny. But one company has managed to put on the performance of a lifetime by getting the audience to sponsor individual characters.

The latest production from Scottish Opera has proved a major hit with fans, even before a single note has been played, by offering them a chance to sponsor any one of the characters in the spectacular Der Rosenkavalier, which opened at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow last night.

Der Rosenkavalier, or "The Cavalier of the Rose", was written by Richard Strauss to an original German libretto by Hugo von Hofmannsthal. It is an extravagant adaptation of the novel Les amours du chevalier de Faublas by Louvet de Couvrai, and Molière's Monsieur de Pourceaugnac.

The production, a comedy of manners and thwarted love set in 18th-century Vienna, is one of the most ambitious ever staged by Scottish Opera and contains around 60 characters.

In an attempt to raise extra funds towards the cost of the production, and give audiences a chance to get more involved, the company offered patrons a chance to sponsor individual characters for any sum between £25 and £5,000.

It was inundated with requests and ended up with each character being sponsored more than once.

"We started out looking for £10,000 or £11,000 and ended up raising £44,000, which is absolutely amazing," said Jane Nicolson, a spokeswoman for Scottish Opera. "As far as we know we are the only opera company who has ever done anything like this. The thinking behind the idea was that as it is increasingly difficult to raise funds we thought we had to be a little more creative, but we didn't expect it to be so successful."

Due to the size of the cast required to perform Der Rosenkavalier, the opera proved the perfect production for the concept.

In return for their cash, sponsors get a credit in the programme alongside the characters they are helping to fund and the opportunity to attend an on-stage party to meet the cast.

"Some of the departments within the Royal Opera Company also got together to sponsor some of the characters," said Ms Nicolson.

"The orchestra decided they had a little too much money in their tea kitty, literally, so decided to sponsor two non-singing roles."

One of the most popular choices has been an Italian tenor, who sings just one aria in act one, who was snapped up by 20 people.

Last year, Scottish Opera was forced to make almost 100 redundancies and suspend all of its large scale productions.

The sponsorship scheme is one of several aimed at proving the company can raise funds of its own, as well as spend government money wisely.

Catriona Reynolds, the head of fund-raising for Scottish Opera, said: "The scheme made us realise that people like to get involved and see tangible evidence of how their money is being spent. Hopefully we will find other operas we can do this with."

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