Tag Archives: Declan McCusker

REVIEW: Scottish Opera Kátya Kabanová – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The shining star of Scottish Opera’s current season is undoubtedly Stephen Lawless’ gorgeous looking and sounding version of Leoš Janáček’s Kátya Kabanová. One of the four late operas by the composer that are universally acknowledged as his greatest works, it has been given something of a Scandi-noir look by designer Leslie Travers and lighting designer Christopher Akerlind, for this co-production with Theater Magdeburg. Based on Alexander Ostrovsky’s play The Storm, and originally set in the 1860s in the small industrial town of Kalinov on the banks of the Volga river, the action has been advanced over a hundred years to the dark days of the Soviet era. 

Sweet and loyal Kátya is seemingly happily married to Tikhon but unrelentingly bullied by his over-possessive, domineering mother Kabanicha. When Tikhon is ordered away on business by his mother, the oppressed and isolated Kátya is tempted into the arms of another. Inherently loyal and utterly remorseful of her actions, she cannot come to terms with what she has done. In the closed-minded town she is subjected not only the whispers of the townsfolk, but the whispers in her own head. Kátya decisively takes action to calm the storm inside.

The orchestra of Scottish Opera are on lively form, at times so lively that it takes a strong singer to stand up to their vigour: some are more successful than others. Laura Wilde is a soft and timid Kátya with a crystal clear soprano, however, there are points where she, like others is overwhelmed by the pit. American tenor Ric Furman as her insipid lover Boris, is almost inaudible for much of the production, and as her Mrs. Danvers-like mother-in-law-from-hell, Patricia Bardon is in fine voice, but strays into pantomime territory as the arch villain. Much more successful are lovers Varvara (Hanna Hipp) and Vanya (Trystan Llŷr Griffiths) who provide a lively foil to the darker goings on.

This is a production that transcends its faults, darkly atmospheric, beautifully designed and with a lyrical yet highly dramatic score that is an absolute treat for the ears, it is a shining jewel in Scottish Opera’s current season.

Touring to Edinburgh 21 and 23 March 2019

Image: James Glossop

REVIEW: Scottish Opera La bohème – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

flea market scene la boheme scottish opera

A sharply crafted, visually stunning and beautifully sung La bohème is a triumphant finale to the 2016/17 Scottish Opera season.

The creative team of André Barbe and Renauld Doucet, last seen in 2014 with the glorious Don Pasquale, have taken Puccini’s masterpiece of Italian opera and reset it to the 1920s. The era of ‘The Lost Generation’, when the world’s creative souls converged on Paris to live the bohemian life among the flea markets, jazz clubs and free spirits.

woman and man mimi and rodolfo hye youn lee luis gomes la boheme

What the pair have achieved is to take the world’s most frequently performed opera, tone down the schmaltz and restore its humour and joie de vivre. Despite the frozen bohemians burning their books, the warmth of their spirits shine through in this production.

papier mache big head mannequins street scene christmas la boheme scottish opera

This is a production whose success is a result of a perfect coming together of all its parts: composer, conductor, cast, design, direction and orchestra. Vital and vibrant it is a winner in every area.

a woman in flapper dress atop a table in la boheme

There are a brace of fine vocal performances: Hye-Youn Lee is a vocally elegant Mimi with an incredibly ear-pleasing and distinctive tone. She perfectly expresses Mimi’s demise without descending into melodrama. Luis Gomes (Rodolfo) is a beautifully toned tenor, however, he is frequently overpowered by the orchestra and Jeanine de Bique is an eye and ear-catching, Josephine Baker-ish Musetta, complete with pet cheetah.

André Barbe’s set is a star in itself. Bristling with life, it is a lavish cacophony of colour and meticulous detail. You will be hard pressed to see a more visually stunning production all year.

This perennial favourite’s standing as the world’s most popular opera shows no sign of abating and this stunner of a production from Scottish Opera will live long in the memory. A stand-out 5 stars.

All images: Sally Jubb

Tours to Aberdeen, Inverness and Edinburgh – more information at: http://www.scottishopera.org.uk/