Michael Tumelty talks to American composer and entrepreneur GP

Cribari, who brings the first opera to the Old Fruitmarket next week

IT'S a long way from LA to the Old Fruitmarket in the Candleriggs.

It's an even longer way from being a post-graduate in psychology and

neuro-science to being the composer of the first opera to be staged in

the Glasgow venue.

And what's more, somebody should have told American musician GP

Cribari that the arts are still in a recession in this country, and that

money is hard to come by.

Because not only has Cribari composed the opera Las Escondidas, which

opens at the Fruitmarket for a four-night run next Wednesday, he

single-handedly raised the #32,000 required to get the project off the

ground. And there's more.

The 35-year-old composer also runs the company that is promoting the

venture, OPERAting Theatre, and has recruited his own librettist,

designer, and director. And, once that was in place, he brought in an

administrator. See panache? See entrepreneurial skill?

GP -- the name's George Paul, same as his dad, and to distinguish

between them his mom called him GP instead of Junior -- was seduced away

from his doctoral thesis in Los Angeles by jazz. He took sax lessons:

''In my own time and from the local bebop guy; John Coltrane was a big

influence.'' He got into classical music the wrong way round (starting

with the moderns and working backwards) and ended up at California State


He moved to London to study composition at the Guildhall School of

Music and ran into Scots-born composer Judith Weir, at that time the

resident composer at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama. Weir

told him of the brand-new post-graduate composition course at the RSAMD

and, in 1990, GP moved north to become one of the first batch of

students on that course.

Due to be resident for a year, he received a scholarship to do a

second year. And he's still here. ''It was a huge struggle to get a

visa, but eventually I got a clearance to stay as an artist and


The new opera -- Cribari's second -- was conceived about four years

ago. What's more, it's venue-specific; it was conceived for the Old

Fruitmarket, with which the composer had become fascinated while

attending jazz festival gigs staged there. ''It's brilliant; a

cul-de-sac with pavements, perfect to incorporate a mock-up of a South

American village.''

At an early stage he called in designer Angela Davies (who has worked

for TAG and the Tron Theatre Company) and librettist Michael Gonzalez (a

senior lecturer in Hispanic studies) both of whom Cribari knew or had

already worked with. The director, Kate Brown, was recruited by the

composer after he had seen her production of the early opera La

Baltasara at the Tramway.

Funding started early, too. First he applied to the Scottish Arts

Council for a bursary to study and research into the opera in South

America. And off he went to Chile for four months.

Sourcing the funds for the project itself he described as

''hair-raising''. He wrote off a series of letters. The arts council

promptly came up with #5000 -- ''a small contribution but the maximum

from the fund it has for this''. The Department of Performing Arts of

Glasgow District Council then produced #13,000 on request. And the

Foundation for Sport and the Arts coughed up #14,000 on application.

How did he do it? ''It baffles me,'' said GP. ''I can't imagine anyone

knew my name -- they must have just liked the idea of the project. You

learn fast; I've learned a lot, and none of it is about music.''

Additionally, since bringing in administrator Anne Cumberland, in-kind

assistance has been obtained: students in the department of Clothing and

Fashion Technology at Cardonald College have been supplied with designs

and fabrics and are making the 40 costumes required for the production

at no cost.

Las Escondidas -- Hide and Seek -- will feature a cast of five

soloists, a chorus of 10 adults and a children's chorus of 14 (mostly

pupils at the High School of Glasgow). The band is the top-drawer

Chamber Group of Scotland, which will be conducted by Paul MacAlindin.

The plot, a fascinating tale, is drawn from a myth about an idyllic

village in South America untouched by time. There is no death, no

disease. Then a gipsy appears, introducing marvellous seductions from

the modern world. Disruption and chaos follow as tensions build between

those who want to let go of the past and those who want to preserve it.

It's not all heavy, insists the composer. Indeed it promises to be

highly colourful, with authentic choreography from Guadelupe Echegoyal

Monroy, and featuring bright Mexican garb (even the band will be

costumed) and a range of theatrical devices, not least a gigantic puppet

two-and-a-half metres tall and rejoicing in the name of the Bone Woman.

Skull biscuits will be provided for audience consumption. Gulp.

The final touch in GP Cribari's virtuoso funding coup was added

obliquely by the Old Fruitmarket itself, which installed toilets only

three weeks ago. ''We would have had to hire Portaloos, so now our

toilet budget can go elsewhere,'' said the engaging American.

Las Escondidas: Old Fruitmarket, Candleriggs, Glasgow. Wed 5 to Sat 8

at 8pm.