Scottish Opera

Opera, flight and a group of disabled people came together in Glasgow in November to put on a new inclusive performance. We went along to find out more…

We’re all familiar with opera. Beautiful music, powerful storytelling… But performers soaring through the air? It’s safe to say that AerialO wasn’t your average opera.

Staged by Scottish Opera, Glasgow’s Waterbaby Dance Ltd and Shropshire-based Blue Eyed Soul Dance Company, AerialO brought together physically disabled and learning disabled young people and adults from across Glasgow to explore their creative side.


Linda Payne from inclusive dance project Waterbaby explains: “I was at a party with Jane, the education officer at Scottish Opera, and I’d been thinking about the aerial work I’d been doing with Blue Eyed Soul. We started having a bit of a joke, saying we could do the Flying Dutchman this way. But then we thought, seriously, we could make an opera with this.”

Linda soon got in touch with Blue Eyed Soul’s artistic director Rachel Freeman, whose company has been using aerial flying techniques to let disabled and non-disabled performers dance through the air. The dancers are harnessed into ropes suspended from a metal frame, allowing them to move freely.

“The aerial work has been developed by us to make movement more accessible,” Rachel says. “Flying levels the playing field because it doesn’t matter what ability you have, you can do it – it’s just about how you use the ropes.”


The 31-strong cast – made up of performers from Smithycroft Secondary School, Dirty Feet inclusive dance group and Glasgow’s only school for physically disabled children, Ashcraig – worked over a period of eight weeks to devise the show. The performers had a say in everything from costume design to the choreography that went along with the music, which was put together by Scottish Opera. Based on Offenbach’s Orpheus in the Underworld and telling the story of the battle between man and machine in a digital world, the performers were accompanied by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and three professional opera singers for two 30-minute shows in November.

As the group’s final performance drew to an end and the performers took a bow, parents, friends and family leapt to their feet, wiped away tears and hollered their approval.

“The participants loved it too,” Linda says with a smile. “And that’s really the important part.”

Scottish Opera / 0141 248 4567

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