Following Gluck’s own lead, (he produced three versions of this work to suit the differing tastes of the audiences it was presented to and the voices singing it: Vienna 1762, Parma 1769 and Paris 1774) the company presents its own English language version for its young cast. Starting with the original Viennese version, it splits the role of Amore into three mischievous Cupids and Amore’s Act 1 aria is re-arranged for trio and chorus. It utilises Euridice’s Act 2 aria from the Paris version but with chorus and Gluck’s famous ballet music features the entire company.
This whole production is a treat for both the eyes and the ears. It takes the best of the three versions to present a ‘greatest hits’, audience-pleasing edition. Musically it is simply beautiful and the young singers lead by professionals Daniel Keating-Roberts (Orfeo) and Jessica Leary (Euridice) display immense talent and promise for the future. Keating-Roberts counter-tenor can be an acquired taste, but entirely fitting for the role. Leary is glorious sounding as Euridice.
At 75 minutes running time, with a familiar subject matter (the myth of Orpheus), beautiful and undemanding music, inventive design and execution, this is an ideal introduction to opera. Not only is it an impeccably staged and delivered production, the Young Company shows hope for the future of opera in Scotland.
In the atmospheric surroundings of Glasgow’s Woodside Hall, Psycho-like screeching strings from the barefoot orchestra clad in Edwardian garb and flashing strings of fairground lights, transport the audience back to turn of the century and the world of Dr. Caligari.
Taking as its inspiration the 1920 silent movie classic of the same name, Scottish Opera’s Connect company’s The Cabinet of Dr Caligari moves back in time to 1901 and resets the action to Glasgow instead of Germany.
Francis takes his girlfriend Jane and her best friend Ellen to the fair at Glasgow Green, among the fortune tellers and snake oil salesmen, in his Cabinet of Fate, Dr Gallagher presents a somnambulist, Cesare who can predict the future while in his sleeping state. When Cesare’s prophecy that Ellen will die that very night comes true, and Francis comes under suspicion for the murder, he and Jane begin to investigate with devastating consequences.
Under Julie Brown’s sure-footed direction, and enhanced by Lisa Sangster’s set and Kate Bonney’s lighting design, a comprehensive cast of characters colour the stage in Karen MacIver and Allan Dunn’s atmospheric and melodic work. The music and libretto are compelling throughout and its short running time (around 75 minutes) ensures that the audience is gripped from start to finish.
Despite the small size of the performance venue there are issues with projection from the young company who are often overwhelmed by the fine-sounding orchestra and dialogue is lost in several places, however, in the cast of 32 there are some stand-out performances which bode well for the future of opera in Scotland. Previous Scottish Opera Emerging Artists Andrew McTaggart and Sarah Power’s experience clearly shows, both delivering strong vocal performances as Caligari/Gallagher and Jane, the female chorus too are beautifully harmonious. Young tenor Glen Cunningham shows promise but needs to work on projecting his melodious voice and as Cesare, Daniel Keating Roberts provides novelty with his countertenor voice, but is somewhat lacking in his delivery.
Scottish Opera’s Connect programme provides the only opportunity for young Scottish musicians aged 14-21 to explore the world of opera and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari is the third world premier in eight years for Connect. The company’s commitment to innovation and the creation of new work must be applauded and if future works are of as high quality and as engaging and entertaining as Caligari then the future of opera in Scotland looks bright.