Breathe Freely
Julian Wagstaff


Breathe Freely was commissioned by the University of Edinburgh to celebrate the 300th anniversary of its School of Chemistry in 2013. The new opera is set in Edinburgh in the closing stages of the Second World War, and takes its name from a book of the same name written by Professor James Kendall in 1938 on the subject of poison gas, and its likely effects if used in a future war.

Based in fact, the opera tells the story of Lieutenant Stanisław Hempel, a Polish officer, chemist and former revolutionary socialist who came to Scotland in 1943 and was given a laboratory by Kendall. The opera's lineup of characters is completed by Dr Chrissie Miller, the first female chemist to be inducted as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Edinburgh.

Breathe Freely addresses moral issues surrounding the role of scientists in war and peacetime, although the work has many lighter and comic moments too.


Instrumentation Genre Stage and ensemble
Tag opera
Collaborators Julius Seyfarth
Collaboration details Translator
Duration 40 minutes
Instrumentation Mezzo-soprano [1 player]; Tenor [1 player]; Baritone [1 player]; Clarinet [1 player]; Cello [1 player]; Piano [1 player]
Publisher Europa Edition

Performances of this work

Date Venue Performer Link
24/10/2013 (*premiére) Assembly Rooms, Edinburgh, Scotland, UK Link to the show website

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