Tag Archives: Derek Clark

NEWS: OPERA HIGHLIGHTS TOURS TO 17 VENUES ACROSS SCOTLAND THIS AUTUMN

On September 12, Scottish Opera’s hugely popular Opera Highlights tour kicks off with four singers and a pianist journeying to 17 venues the length and breadth of Scotland, from Kirkwall in the north to Stranraer in the south.

Travelling the highways and byways by land, sea and air, the Autumn tour begins in Motherwell before heading to Stirling, Stonehaven, Tain, Ullapool, Stornoway, Portree, Oban, Galashiels, Perth, Dunfermline, Thurso, Kirkwall, Ellon, Stranraer, Greenock and Musselburgh.

The setting for director Roxana Haines’ production of Opera Highlights is a beautiful garden party, and features a playlist of operatic classics and must-hear rarities, curated by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark. Highlights include Delibes’ ‘Flower Duet’, Vaughan Williams’ ‘Blue larkspur in a garden’ and many more from the likes of Mozart, Lehár and Scottish Opera Composer in Residence, Samuel Bordoli.

Pianist/Music Director Ian Shaw is joined by Scottish Opera Emerging Artist soprano Charlie Drummond; mezzo-soprano Martha Jones; tenor Alex Bevan and baritone Mark Nathan, who is also a Scottish Opera Emerging Artist this Season.

The same show returns in Spring 2020, with a different cast: soprano Zoe Drummond; mezzo-soprano Jade Moffat; tenor Andrew Irwin and baritone Arthur Bruce, The Robertson Trust Scottish Opera Emerging Artist who is a former member of Scottish Opera Young Company. It will tour another 17 venues around Scotland from February 4: Bathgate, Birnam, Markinch, Campbeltown, Bowmore, Arrochar, Bunessan, Arisaig, Beauly, Cumnock, Castle Douglas, Callander, Lerwick, Peebles, Fochabers, Alford and Rutherglen. In total, this Season’s Opera Highlights is visiting 34 venues.

Roxana Haines, who is directing Scottish Opera’s Fox-tot! at Edinburgh Festival Fringe this summer, said: ‘This year’s Opera Highlights cast cordially invite you to a party on your doorstep, set throughout luscious gardens and magical flora and fauna of Opera. The stage has been set, decorations unpacked and the guests have all arrived but, the only problem is, no one quite knows who or why we’re celebrating…

‘As the evening progresses, the connections between our characters unravel through music from the likes of Handel, Donizetti and Mozart, and lighter pieces from Gilbert & Sullivan and Vaughan Williams as well as a new work by Samuel Bordoli. Prepare for charm, magic and love in all its operatic forms.’

Scottish Opera’s General Director, Alex Reedijk, said: ‘I am delighted that Scottish Opera will be touring what promises to be another sensational Opera Highlights to 34 venues across Scotland in the Autumn and Spring. This longstanding and much acclaimed commitment by the Company to presenting work across Scotland is part of what makes us Scottish Opera, and is welcomed by our far-flung audiences as a lovely operatic tonic! Opera Highlights also serves to introduce young singers to our audiences, and greatly assists their development as artists alongside presenting the joys of opera and singing to our widely spread audience.’
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Opera Highlights Autumn Tour Cast and Creative Team

Soprano Charlie Drummond*
Mezzo-soprano Martha Jones
Tenor Alex Bevan
Baritone Mark Nathan*

Pianist/Music Director Ian Shaw
Director Roxana Haines
Composer in Residence Samuel Bordoli*

*Scottish Opera Emerging Artist

Performance Diary

Motherwell Theatre, Motherwell
Thu 12 Sep, 7.30pm

Albert Halls, Stirling
Sat 14 Sep, 7.30pm

Stonehaven Town Hall, Stonehaven
Tue 17 Sep, 7.30pm

Duthac Centre, Tain
Thu 19 Sep, 7.30pm

Macphail Centre, Ullapool
Sat 21 Sep, 7.30pm

An Lanntair, Stornoway
Tues 24 Sep, 7.30pm

Aros Centre, Portree
Thu 26 Sep, 7.30pm

Corran Halls, Oban
Sat 28 Sep, 7.30pm

Volunteer Hall, Galashiels
Tues 1 Oct, 7.30pm

Perth Theatre, Perth
Thu 3 Oct, 7.30pm

Carnegie Hall, Dunfermline
Sat 5 Oct, 7.30pm

Thurso High School, Thurso
Tue 8 Oct, 7.30pm

Orkney Theatre, Kirkwall
Thu 10 Oct, 7.30pm

Haddo House, Ellon
Sat 12 Oct, 7.30pm

Ryan Centre, Stranraer
Tues 15, 7.30pm

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock
Thu 17 Oct, 7.30pm

The Brunton, Musselburgh
Sat 19 Oct, 7.30pm

REVIEW: Opera Highlights (Scottish Opera) – Eastwood Park Theatre, Giffnock

Four singers, one piano, seventeen venues, Scottish Opera’s much-anticipated Opera Highlights returns (yippee!) and as always, it never fails to delight.

Director Daisy Evans has framed this year’s production as an electronically created playlist of opera gems. An “on-stage opera newbie” goes on an “emotional musical voyage” discovering, via Spotify and Google via Alexa, just how music has the power to move. Evans is a director to watch, and her staging undoubtedly adds greatly to the enjoyment of the evening. It’s funny, clever, accessible, inclusive, all the things that good theatre of any genre should be. It also looks great. A neon door and window and a few wooden crates serve as the only stage dressing, but coupled with the brightly coloured suited, booted and co-ordinating nail-varnished cast, it works brilliantly.

Freed from the constraints of remaining in a single character, the singers’ personalities are given the chance to shine in a variety of roles, and the warmth just radiates from the quartet. The acoustics in this small auditorium are as close to ideal as it is possible to get in a theatre and the voices give goose bumps. Soprano Sofia Troncoso, Mezzo Sarah Champion, Tenor Richard Pinkstone, Baritone Dawid Kimberg are exceptional as is pianist Jonathon Swinard.

The programme, designed by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark, delivers something for everyone. The range of composers, styles and moods, genuinely runs the gamut of human emotion.

Scottish Opera’s annual ‘Highlights’ tour, and indeed the whole of the company’s programming, is a model for how a national company should operate. A hands-down, five star, exemplary evening of entertainment.

Currently on tour to: Ayr, Drumnadrochit, Wick, Forres, Ullapool, Stornoway, Portree, Lanark, Helensburgh, Dundee, Inverurie, Laurencekirk, Perth, Dumfries, Musselburgh and St. Andrews.

More information at Scottish Opera

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Lauder – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

It’s been a dream come true for much-loved Scottish tenor Jamie MacDougall to bring Jimmy Logan’s ‘play with tunes’ back to the stage. Lauder is being staged in the very theatre that launched Sir Harry Lauder to stardom. The place, the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, where in 1905, Lauder in the leading role in the Howard & Wyndham pantomime Aladdin, wrote the now, world-famous I Love a Lassie. The place that is this week celebrating its 150th anniversary.

Lauder’s story truly is one of rags to riches: from leaving school at 12 to go to the coal faces of Lanarkshire, his first steps on the music hall stage, through fame in London (appearing in six theatres a night) then international stardom, to becoming the highest paid entertainer in the world, his skill at self-promotion and his ambition set him apart from the start. This is a man who carefully cultivated his tight-fisted Scotsman image and who, on arriving in the US (in the days before the mass media) rode behind a pipe band in an open-topped car down Broadway to generate a sell-out audience for his shows. He also spotted the potential in his young, inexperienced US agent, one William Morris whose company continues to be the king among acting agencies today. He left an indelible impression on all those he met. His eventual Knighthood though, wasn’t for his fame and skill as a performer, it was for his humanitarian work, raising money (over £1 Million) for the returning troops of World War 1, despite suffering incredible personal loss.

Over a century on from the height of his fame, his legacy lives strong. You may think that you don’t know the words to his songs – but you do. There must be something in the Scottish DNA that pre-programmes them into our psyche, either that or the sheer cleverness of the songwriting, that, by the second verse and chorus, you’ve learned the lyrics and are singing along with the best of them. Indeed, the audience, before the lights dim and the story begins, are gently singing along to these beloved tunes (something they continue to do whenever given the chance throughout the performance).

Besides a gripping tale, jokes that are as fresh and funny 100 years on, and those astonishingly catchy songs, it’s an incredible central performance from MacDougall that elevates this to an unmissable evening of theatre. MacDougall looks as if he’s having the time of his life and his energy and utter immersion in the role transmit to the audience. His rendition of Stop Your Tickling Jock is the most infectiously funny thing I’ve seen on a stage in a long time – I defy anyone not to laugh. This is a joyful experience, both to watch and to feel a part of. MacDougall is a fine tenor and his beautiful diction and impressive acting skills showcase Lauder’s work at its very best.

An in-missable, five-star tribute to one of Scotland’s greats by a production and performing team of the highest quality.

Images: James Glossop

REVIEW: The Elixir of Love – The Concert Hall, Motherwell

Scottish Opera’s latest touring production, Gaetano Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love, is a wonderfully witty, beautifully staged and finely sung treasure. An utter joy from start to finish, this is opera for people who think they don’t like opera. Donizetti’s gloriously melodic score is a treat for the ears and Oliver Townsend and Mark Howland’s charming and clever design – re-set from the 19th Century Mediterranean to a country garden in 1920s England, is simply gorgeous.

Humble gardener Nemorino is hopelessly in love with wealthy landowner Adina, but her head (if not her heart) is turned by the flashy Sergeant Belcore. But all is not lost when quack medicine man Dr Dulcamara literally rides into town, selling our hero a powerful love potion that promises to deliver the girl of his dreams into his arms within a day.

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Ellie Laugharne and Elgan Llyr Thomas as Adina and Nemorino in Scottish Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

This effervescent production bubbles and fizzes throughout, thanks largely to the delightful cast, and as befitting this ‘male Cinderella’ story, it is the boys who dominate. Elgan Llyr Thomas is thoroughly appealing as our love-lorn hero Nemorino and his show-stopping Una furtiva lagrima (one single tear falls silently) is a real crowd-pleaser, but he doesn’t have the limelight solely to himself thanks to scene-stealing turns from Toby Girling as the preposterously pompous Sergeant Belcore and the outstanding James Cleverton as the dodgy Doctor Dulcamara, whose timing, sonorous tones and perfect diction are a masterclass in comic opera acting.

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James Cleverton as Dulcamara Scottish in Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

Mention must be made of music Derek Clark, who deserves plaudits for trimming Donizetti’s score from 53 instruments to five without losing any of its richness and the brisk baton of conductor Stuart Stratford who drives the score along.

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Ellie Laugharne, Elgan Llyr Thomas and Toby Girling in Scottish Opera’s The Elixir of Love Image: Tim Morozzo

For a work that was written, if not in the two weeks that opera folklore claims, but certainly astonishingly quickly nearly 200 years ago, this sunny, funny, dazzling and delightful work is a five-star, must-see production.

Currently touring Scotland, booking information here: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/our-operas/16-17/the-elixir-of-love

REVIEW: The Mikado, Scottish Opera & D’Oyly Carte – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Silly, sumptuous and satisfying, Scottish Opera and D’Oyly Carte’s co-production of the perennially popular, anti-establishment satire The Mikado, is a delight from start to finish.

Rebecca Bottone as Yum-Yum & Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo Copyright: James Glossop

Rebecca Bottone as Yum-Yum & Nicholas Sharratt as Nanki-Poo
Copyright: James Glossop

The team that brought us 2013’s Pirates of Penzance have once again produced a picture-perfect, people-pleaser of a production. It’s Victorian music hall meets Imperial Japan and from the moment the curtain rises on Dick Bird’s sumptuous set, you can sit back, relax and rest assured that this will be a winner.

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Copyright: James Glossop

Since Jonathan Miller’s much-revived 1920’s reinvention, almost all Mikado productions have suffered in comparison, but Martin Lloyd-Evans’ more than holds its own in the visual and entertainment stakes. Indeed, it even has G&S veteran Richard Suart, a much-lauded Ko-Ko from Miller’s production in this cast. Stuart’s sure-footedness is evident throughout, playing Ko-Ko as a cockney spiv in a kimono consistently tickles the audience, Tit-Willow, with its puppet crow is a particular highlight.

Richard Suart Andrew Shore Scottish Opera Mikado

Richard Suart as Ko-Ko & Andrew Shore as Pooh-Bah Copyright: James Glossop

In an almost universally solid cast, a few stars shine bright: Nicholas Sharratt’s Nanki-Poo is more Gussie Fink-Nottle than prince of Japan but it works beautifully, Rebecca de Pont Davies is a wild-eyed and wicked Katisha and Ben McAteer is a wonderfully witty Pish-Tush, however, less successful is Rebecca Bottone’s very light Yum-Yum, drowned by the orchestra throughout.

Ben McAteer Scottish Opera Mikado

Ben McAteer as Pish-Tush
Copywrite: James Glossop

For both G&S veterans and newcomers to opera, this sumptuous feast is a delight, sending the audience skipping onto the streets, whistling a witty ditty – a satisfying end to Scottish Opera’s spring season.

Rebecca de Pont Davies KatishaKatisha Mikad Scottish opera

Rebecca de Pont Davies
Copyright: James Glossop

 

This production tours to Inverness, Aberdeen, Edinburgh, Belfast, Newcastle, Bristol and Southampton.

More details can be found on the Scottish Opera website at: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/

REVIEW: La traviata – Scottish Opera, Town House, Hamilton

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Violetta, a famed escort, leads a seemingly charmed existence amidst the cream of Paris society. But, in fragile health, she is tired of living an empty life and when Alfredo introduces himself she finally sees a way out of her tawdry lifestyle. Deeply in love, all is blissful contentment until some home truths convince her to leave Alfredo and head back into the arms of another…

La traviata/The Fallen Woman

Opera in three acts by Giuseppe Verdi

Libretto by Francesco Maria Piave after Alexandre Dumas’ play La dame aux camelias

Sung in English translation by Edmund Tracey

Performed in an orchestral reduction by Tony Burke

This new production of Verdi’s beloved tearjerker is part of Scottish Opera’s 50th anniversary celebrations, an unprecedented 50 date tour across the country fulfilling the company’s promise to bring Opera to the whole of Scotland no matter how remote. This production re-imagined in 1950’s Paris aims to get to the heart of the story by concentrating on the turbulent relationship at its core.

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Robyn Lyn Evans as Alfredo Germont and Elin Pritchard as Violetta Valery

Though enjoyable in parts and laudable in its aim to make opera accessible to the masses, this production is not without its flaws. The decision to sing it in English made it no more accessible than it would have been sung its original Italian with surtitles: Elin Pritchard in the principle role of Violetta is a fine singer however the nature of her and indeed any other sopranos voice, means that at the highest end of its range every word is changed to mere sound, losing all meaning, only the male singers (and not all of them) were, in any way understandable, though praise must go to Robyn Lyn Evans as Alfredo who possessed the most impressive vocals of the evening and the most convincing acting skills.

The truncation of the storyline also meant that anyone not already familiar with the tale, would be lost. That said, the programme is of  impressive quality providing comprehensive and essential notes on the production, and is an entertaining, informative and well-written read. However the length of the notes meant that it was impossible to read them in the minutes between taking your seat and the production beginning (the interval chatter from many saying that they wished they had time to read the notes beforehand as they might have had a chance of understanding what was going on).

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The 18 piece chamber orchestra sounded tight and strong throughout, however the same could not be said for the singers; in this 700+ seat venue the sound was at times lost and some of the blame I fear must be laid at the door of the “shoebox” set. Though clever in its design and pleasing to the eye, it seemed to smother much of the sound. There were also some uncomfortably lengthy scene changes which left the audience somewhat restless.

The costume design also failed to truly reflect the setting; the sharper suits of the men were era-appropriate as were the “New Look” designs of Kathryn McAdam’s characters Flora and Annina, though the top hats and capes of the men in evening dress were more of a nod to the Opera’s origins and Violetta’s long-flowing Pre-Raphaelite curled locks and 80’s style dresses were an avoidable annoyance given the size of the wig and wardrobe departments of this national company.

The intention of Scottish Opera to “bring the widest possible range of opera, performed to the highest possible standards, to the maximum audience throughout Scotland” is laudable however I fear a little more thought and care needs to go into matching the staging to these many and varied venues in order to maximise the quality of experience.