A LONDON opera boss has caused a storm after suggesting highlanders are seen as hairy, smelly savages.
An opera based on Sir Walter Scott’s The Lady of the Lake opened at The Royal Opera House at the weekend to strong reviews.
But comments from director John Fulljames about Scott’s views on highlanders have provoked outrage from the author’s modern-day fans.
He said Scott saw highlanders as savages, but Scott’s modern-day fans rubbished this claim.
The opera, La donna del lago, was written in 1819 by Gioachino Rossini, based on Scott’s poem.
Speaking before the opera opened, Mr Fulljames said: “Turning the highlanders into savages is the clear choice of an author; that’s what Rossini and Scott are saying.
He continued: “The Highlanders not only lose the battle in The Lady of the Lake, but they are also killed – because Scott believes they are incapable of passing into modernity.
“His rather utopian world quietly expunges them from history.”
Commenting on how his take on the opera is influenced by films like Highlander and Braveheart, Fulljames also said: “If you look at those films, the Highlanders are hairy. You do imagine they’d be smelly.”
Mr Fulljames has insisted he is not prejudiced against Highlanders.
David Purdie, chairman of the Sir Walter Scott Club an honourary fellow of Edinburgh University, strongly denied the writer would have looked down on highlanders.
He said: “That attitude can be summed up in one word – b******s,
“Scott was a great admirer of the courage and characteristics of the highlanders and lamented the fact that they had been separated for so long from southern Scotland by geography, language, politics and religion.”
“Scott more than anybody else helped to unite the Highlands and Lowlands.
His great aim in life was the promotion of Scotland as a unity within the United Kingdom.”
Professor Purdie also said that the novelist would have objected to the film portrayal of highlanders.
He continued: “Scott would have rejected that. ThehHighlanders had great personal assets in terms of their loyalty, their courage in battle. They’re no more hairy then we are.
“Everyone was smelly in the 18th century.”