Tag Archives: Arthur Bruce

REVIEW: Iris – Scottish Opera at The City Halls, Glasgow

Iris, Pietro Mascagni’s little seen third opera, is presented in concert form at the City Halls in Glasgow, by Scottish Opera. Originally intended to be semi-staged, almost universal cast illness means that this is a little more no frills. However, the music is so glorious, nothing more is required.

Set in Japan in the Edo period, innocent Iris (Kiandra Howarth, replacing the indisposed Helena Dix), the daughter of blind Il Cieco (James Creswell) lives a simple life. Her world is turned on its head when young Lord Osaka (Ric Furman) carries Iris off to Kyoto’s (Roland Wood) geisha house and a world so cruel she can barely comprehend.

Mascagni’s work pre-dates Puccini’s Butterfly by six years and is considerably more demanding – this is basically the tale of a young Japanese girl who is sold into sex-trafficking, and it makes no bones about it’s presentation of it, what Puccini glosses over, Mascagni and his librettist Luigi Illica, lay bare. The problematic nature of the story is only made more difficult by the fact that there is no remorse for the unpalatable actions of the men in the story and to add insult to injury, the males are inevitably handed all the best music.

The ominous bass solo with which the work begins, sets the tone for Iris’ fate, but it begins one of the most beautiful openings in opera, as the sun rises over Japan. This glorious opening is a precursor to a work filled with beautiful music, played faultlessly by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera and accompanied impeccably by the chorus of Iris. The first rate singers, the icing on the cake.

While the subject matter may not be to many’s taste, Iris, is utterly hypnotic, completely beguiling, and in the intimate setting of the City Halls, with it’s world-class acoustics, a five-star, absolute highlight of the current opera season.

Image: James Glossop

REVIEW: Amadeus and the Bard – Scottish Opera Production Studios, Glasgow

We’re invited to a night out at Poosie Nansie’s Inn, on of Robert Burns’ favourite hostelries, in Mary McCluskey’s Amadeus and the Bard.

Subtitled 18th Century Cosmic Brothers, this mixture of story and song, explores the lives of Scotland’s best-loved poet and Austria (and the World’s) most revered composer, Mozart and sheds light on the often startling similarities between them. Burns’ traditional Scottish folk tunes are blended with some of Mozart’s most popular arias. Tam O’ Shanter sits alongside The Magic Flute, A Red, Red Rose alongside The Marriage of Figaro.

McCluskey’s production is like a great, big all encompassing hug. From the moment the audience entersĀ greeted by the cast, clad in their authentic looking, late 18th Century garb, to the last notes ringing out, the audience feel more like participants than on-lookers. The engaging performers, the songs, poems and script are delivered so warmly and invitingly that you can’t help be captivated.

The parallels between these two seemingly disparate men are cleverly woven together and delivered inventively. The mixture of professional performers both singers and an actor, and members of Scottish Opera Young Company, blend seamlessly to create an enchanting evening’s entertainment. Particularly of note are baritone Ross Fettes, a current student at the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, a gifted young singer with a bright future ahead of him, and fellow RCS student, soprano Erin Spence, whose voice and artistry leave a lasting impression, Miss Spence has a rare talent of being able to act convincingly as well as deliver the songs with conviction. Tenor James McIntyre too throws himself fully into his multiple roles. It would be churlish though, not to acknowledge the quality of the entire cast, who are excellent.

That a national company is producing smaller-scale but highly engaging, original and appealing productions is to be lauded – more of this please.

Images: Sally Jubb