The first part of the adventure was getting there. Out of the subway, past the tower blocks and under the motorway flyover. A quick glance at Google Maps and into a patch of litter-blown scrub. Someone bustles up alongside me: ‘Are you looking for the opera?’ I am, yes: and my guess is that the cluster of clipboard-y types in high-vis tabards next to that warehouse probably marks the entrance. We’re waved in: ‘Big Cock’ proclaims a graffiti-covered wall. There’s a stack of shipping containers, an improvised bar (cold beer and Scotch pies) and a big tented space filled with drifting crowds and that apprehensive, slightly unsettled murmur you always hear when – unusually for an opera audience – no one really knows what they’ve let themselves in for.
A classic Edinburgh Festival experience, you might think: except that Scottish Opera’s promenade production of Bernstein’s Candide is taking place in Glasgow, while the mighty International Festival – barring a visit from Garsington’s (admittedly superb) Rusalka – seems to have pretty much thrown in its hand this year, at least as regards main-stage opera. Certainly, nothing at Edinburgh looked half as intriguing as this open-air staging by Jack Furness: by a curious coincidence, the director of that stunning Rusalka here producing Scotland’s operatic event of the summer on the opposite side of the country.
Whatever: Candide pulled you in and tipped you out, three hours later, footsore but with all senses fizzing. This site-specific way of doing opera was pioneered by the late Graham Vick’s Birmingham Opera Company. For Vick, it was an end in itself, and the atmosphere of ferocious, almost cult-like commitment that made his Birmingham productions feel so transgressive was much less noticeable in Glasgow.