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  • Alistair Braidwood

Cooking Up A Storm: SWH! Previews Scottish Opera’s The Narcissistic Fish…

Updated: May 7, 2021

Tonight at 7pm Scottish Opera is premiering The Narcissistic Fish, a short film that is a collaboration between composer Samuel Bordoli, writer Jenni Fagan and filmmaker Antonia Bain. If you are missing Scottish Opera during lockdown (and I certainly am) then this is unmissable. If you aren’t yet familiar with the company’s work then this is the perfect place to discover what they do so well.

Set in the kitchen of a Leith restaurant called The Narcissistic Fish, the opera tells the story of the stormy relationship between chefs Angus, Kai and Belle, and touches on themes of narcissism, gender bias and class. As someone who has spent much of their working life in professional kitchens I know it is the perfect setting for the ‘sturm and drang’ which opera often brings, with blood, sweat and tears part of regular working days and nights. It’s a place of work designed to create drama.

Jenni Fagan is one of the finest writers around, and to have her write the libretto is hugely exciting. Perhaps most well known for her novels The Panopticon and The Sunlight Pilgrims, her poetry collections The Dead Queen of Bohemia and There’s a Witch in the Word Machine (SWH!’s Book of 2018) are among the best of recent times and should be sought out if you haven’t already. Few writers capture the musicality and rhythm of language as she does, which makes her perfect for this production.

Here Fagan explains her approach to writing for The Narcissistic Fish:

“My goal was to collaborate with Scottish Opera on a libretto written in working class Scottish. I felt the nuances and richness of the language deserved to create a musicality and story that would have its own edge and identity. I didn’t want the characters to necessarily be a more classical opera concept – it was interesting to go for something that felt vibrantly contemporary in subject matter and identity. It is a short story that comes alive due to the passion and conflict inherent in the three main characters’ lives.”

The Narcissistic Fish features three of the Company’s 2019/20 Emerging Artists, baritones Arthur Bruce and Mark Nathan, and soprano Charlie Drummond. Arthur was one of the guests in our series of Scottish Opera podcasts, and you can listen to that, as well as all the others, here – Scottish Opera Podcasts

The Narcissistic Fish is the first work in Scottish Opera’s new Opera Shorts initiative – opera created by a wide range of artists using digital technologies – and it will be screened on Scottish Opera’s website and on their social media channels, including YouTube.

Here’s the trailer:

And some stills from behind the scenes of the production, with thanks to Scottish Opera. Photo credit – Julie Broadfoot


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