University banner

Breathe Freely - A Chemistry Opera

Cover for the Breathe Freely CDThe School of Chemistry commissioned a chamber opera in 2013.

The work is 40 minutes in duration and set in Edinburgh during the closing stages of the Second World War. It takes its name from a book written by Prof. James Kendall in 1938 on the subject of poison gas and its likely effects if used in a future war.

A high-quality studio recording of Breathe Freely is available from the Linn Records label. The CD includes a 65-page colour booklet, including photographs from the 2013 production and the complete text of the opera in English and German.

The score and libretto are available from Europa Edition.

24 October 2013

Breathe Freely posterBreathe Freely, an opera composed by Julian Wagstaff as part of our Tercentenary celebrations, was a huge success when it was performed in front of a packed audience at the Assembly Rooms on George Street.

We sold 263 tickets for the performance on 24 October 2013. We also welcomed a number of VIPs to the performance taking the total attendance to over 300!

A reception was held before the opera for around 60 guests.

In the Press

The event was widely publicised on the listings pages of many magazines and newspapers, as well as on all of the key online events guides.

The event attracted a high degree of advance publicity, including coverage in the following publications:

A number of Polish news websites also picked up the story, including tvn24 and

In addition, a live fifteen-minute interview with Julian was broadcast on BBC Radio Scotland on Janice Forsyth's programme The Culture Studio on 23 October. The broadcast included an excerpt from the opera recorded during the previous day's rehearsals.


Overall, the feedback received from those who saw and worked on the show has been overwhelmingly positive.

Derek Clark, head of music at Scottish Opera, has described the score as "excellent", and expressed the profound hope that it will be possible to stage Breathe Freely again in future.

Janet Archer, the new CEO of Creative Scotland (formerly the Scottish Arts Council) attended the performance and afterwards spoke very positively about the work and the production, as did Carol Main, the classical music editor of The List magazine.