The Scottish Opera premiere of Pietro Mascagni’s Iris, a gripping tale of innocence lost, takes place on 1 December at City Halls, Glasgow.

Conducted by Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford, Roxana Haines (Opera Highlights 2019) directs this semi-staged work, featuring soloists Helena Dix, Ric Furman (Kátya Kabanová 2019) and Roland Wood (Pelléas and Mélisande 2017). They are joined by The Orchestra of Scottish Opera and a 40-strong chorus.

Set in Japan, Iris tells the story of a naïve young girl who is blissfully unaware of life’s darker side. When she is tempted from her home, she suffers a brutal crash course on how cruel the world can be. An opera full of colour and vibrancy it features ‘Hymn to the Sun’, which is often hailed as Mascagni’s finest work.

Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford said: ‘Iris is, in many ways, Mascagni’s greatest opera. Composed six years before Puccini’s Madama Butterfly, it too looks to Japan for inspiration. The opening ‘Hymn to the Sun’ is one of the most spectacular depictions of a sunrise in music, starting from the murky depths of a solo double bass playing a quasi tone-row, later swelled by the rest of the strings, glittering horn calls and just when you think it can’t get any louder the full chorus join in to reach a tremendous climax. The drama is brutal and uncompromising, with some of the most alluring music given to the most desperate and appalling situations which creates a huge sense of unease in the listener.’

The Opera in Concert series continues in May 2020 with the passionate and lyrical Cavalleria rusticana by Mascagni. Performed at the Usher Hall, Edinburgh, it tells the tale of a young Sicilian villager who returns from war to find his fiancée has married someone else. Conductor Stuart Stratford has chosen to pair it with Leoncavallo’s lesser-known work Zingari, another Scottish Opera premiere. With a parallel narrative that sees another love triangle go disastrously wrong, Zingari is based on Pushkin’s The Gypsies. Orpha Phelan directs soloists including Evez Abdulla, Justina Gringyte and Julia Sporsén.

The Opera in Concert series concludes with a semi-staged performance of Utopia, Limited. A new co-production with D’Oyly Carte Opera and State Opera South Australia, this Scottish Opera premiere will be performed with an updated libretto by director Stuart Maunder, and a revised musical version by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music, Derek Clark, who also conducts. Wittily satirising the British Empire’s politics, monarchy and press, Gilbert & Sullivan’s penultimate opera is performed by the cast of The Gondoliers, and designed by Dick Bird. Utopia, Limited tours to Glasgow, Edinburgh and Hackney Empire in London.

Mascagni’s Iris

1 December 2019, 3pm

City Halls, Glasgow