Tag Archives: Opera

REVIEW: Greek – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Based on Steven Berkoff’s riff on Sophocles’ Oedipus Rex, Greek has fast forwarded the story from Thebes, 429 BC to the Tufnell Park in the 1980s.

Mark-Anthony Turnage’s work, while labelled as modern opera is celebrating its 30th anniversary, and while the shock of the new may have worn off in the intervening years, it still packs a hugely entertaining punch visually and aurally. Though, those with a delicate stomach might want to give it a wide berth thanks to Dick Straker’s live video projections which include a stomach-turning greasy spoon breakfast complete with live maggots and those offended by fowl language be warned there’s plenty of effing and blinding.

While cleverly adapted to suit modern sensibilities, the fundamentals remain the same: our hero Eddy, clad in a tomato red Adidas 3-stripe tracksuit leaves behind the ‘cess pit’ of the East End to avoid fulfilling the prophecy of a fortune teller who predicts his father will die a violent death and he’ll ‘bunk up with his mum’.

Johannes Schutz’s set design comprising an enormous, white rectangular revolve with two door openings, focusses all the attention firmly up front and centre stage. Alex Lowde’s comical costume designs add to the almost vaudevillian feeling of the piece.

The cast of four (three of whom, Allison Cook, Susan Bullock and Henry Waddington, double, triple and quadruple up on roles) keep the interest and entertainment up throughout. There are however a few issues with projection, even from just a few rows back it sounds underpowered. That said, it doesn’t detract from the fact that this it remains hugely entertaining throughout.

Young conductor Finnegan Downie Dear, keeps the orchestra on point and sustains the creeping menace in the music for the duration.

Subtle it isn’t, but it is a thoroughly engaging, bawdy and bold, small but perfectly formed 80 minute breath of fresh air on the opera landscape.

Images: Jane Hobson

 

REVIEW: The Fiery Angel (Scottish Opera Sunday Series) – City Halls, Glasgow

Masochistic obsession, black magic, demons, mass possession, exorcism, skeletons, nuns, appearances from Faust and Mephistopheles, it’s no wonder Sergei Prokofiev’s The Fiery Angel, often called lurid and sensationalist, is seldom staged. This latest production in The Sunday Series from Scottish Opera sees the work given a stripped back concert style treatment and it’s all the better for it.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

While lacking a set, it lacks for nothing else. The principal cast is largely made up of native Russian speakers and some fellow Eastern Europeans and is supplemented by current students of the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland opera school. The expertise with the language is partly the reason for the quality of this production, that and the considerable singing and acting skills of its principal players. Russian soprano Svetlana Sozdateleva is fine-voiced and gives a convincing, emotive performance throughout as the mentally unsound Renata, as is Azerbaijani baritone Evez Abdulla as Ruprecht and Russian tenor Dmitry Golovnin as Agrippa von Nettesheim, though it must be said that at times they, and their fellow singers find it hard to be heard over the outstanding orchestra (itself swelled in number by students from the Conservatoire), who, under the commanding baton of Mikhail Agrest, have rarely sounded more powerful.

Rehearsal for The Fiery Angel
Photos by Julie Howden

For all its, quite frankly insane subject matter, the score is an absolute winner: powerful, hypnotic, dissonant, majestic, bold and gripping.

Every aspect of this largely concert hall venue is utilised well: singers enter through the auditorium, sing from the balconies, orchestra stalls and act out the considerable drama in an arrangement of simply staged, but hugely effective scenes.

An absolute triumph for both Scottish Opera and The Royal Conservatoire of Scotland and a fantastic opportunity to hear Prokofiev’s masterpiece sounding at its best.

 

 

NEWS: OPERA UNDER CANVAS WITH CAST OF UP TO 200 HEADS TO PAISLEY PARK

Paisley has been chosen as the site for Scottish Opera’s production of Ruggero Leoncavallo’s opera Pagliacci (The Clowns) in July 2018. The performances will take place at the city’s Seedhill Playing Fields in a huge tented structure, and Scottish Opera is inviting local people from across Renfrewshire and beyond to be part of the performing company of up to two hundred.

Pagliacci tells the story of Canio, the leader of a troupe of travelling players, who discovers his wife Nedda is having an affair. His jealousy erupts before an unsuspecting audience, as the play-within-a-play takes a tragic turn.

Scottish Opera’s Music Director Stuart Stratford will conduct and Bill Bankes-Jones, founder of Tête à Tête Opera, will direct the promenade production, which is being specially created to be staged outwith the walls of Scottish Opera’s usual theatre venues.

Open to everyone aged 16 and over who enjoys singing, dance or drama or who would like to learn a new skill, those interested are invited to attend one of four taster events at Scottish Opera’s Silver Cloud Studio in Hillington in November. No previous performance experience is needed and those who take part will be right in the middle of the action, performing alongside The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, international soloists and a professional chorus. The Company also wants to hear from existing theatrical, musical, gymnastic, cheer-leading or sporting groups to be part of the carnival-like setting which will be created for the show.

The November taster sessions will be followed by an introductory weekend in January and weekly rehearsals for the landmark immersive production will begin in early March. The performances of Pagliacci (The Clowns) will be on 26, 28 and 29 July in Paisley, which has been shortlisted for UK City of Culture in 2021.

Former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Nadine Livingston (La bohème, 2017) sings the role of Nedda. Making his Scottish Opera debut, Trinidadian tenor Ronald Samm will sing the role of her husband Canio. Robert Hayward (Bluebeard’s Castle, 2017) will return to the Scottish Opera stage as Tonio, the fool.

Stuart Stratford said: ‘Sometimes the best place to perform a piece is outside the theatre. An opera like Pagliacci is crying out for a different approach – I can’t think of a better way to present it, and to capture its energy, than with hundreds of performers from all walks of life.’

Alex Reedijk, Scottish Opera’s General Director said: ‘Since Stuart Stratford began his tenure at Scottish Opera as Music Director, he has been particularly keen to do a site-specific opera so I am thrilled we are coming to Paisley with what promises to be a spectacular production of Pagliacci. We are looking forward to getting local people involved in this exciting event – you don’t need to have any experience to take part, just lots of enthusiasm!’

Bill Bankes-Jones added: ‘I’m absolutely thrilled to be part of this pioneering project, and can’t think of anywhere better than Paisley to stage Pagliacci in conjunction with the formidable forces of Scottish Opera.  Creating a world where some performers visit a community mid-festival will be magical in Paisley, with its huge cultural heritage and the wonderful Sma’ Shot Day to trigger our imaginations.  I can’t wait to see how Paisley and Scottish Opera collaborate and inspire each other through this project.’

Paisley 2021 bid director Jean Cameron said: ‘We are thrilled Scottish Opera is bringing this production to Paisley next year. Paisley’s bid to be UK City of Culture 2021 aims to bring some of the finest artists from Scotland and beyond to Paisley to work with our homegrown talent and for our local audiences to enjoy.
‘We have some fantastic choirs here in Paisley – at the last count there were 26 – and I am sure they will relish the chance to be part of this amazing production of one of the world’s best-loved operas. At the same time, we are excited at the chance to make use of a site which has never hosted anything of this kind – our bid aims to use every corner of Paisley to deliver the benefits of culture to those who stand to gain most, and this is a wonderful way to explore how that will work.’

Those who wish to find out more or take part in the production should contact Donna Macpherson: donna.macpherson@scottishopera.org.uk or 0141 332 9559

Community Taster Sessions

Silver Cloud Studio, North Point, Unit 20, 37 Gordon Avenue, Hillington Park, G52 4TG

Mon 20 Nov, 7-9pm

Tue 21 Nov, 2-4pm

Wed 22 Nov, 7-9pm

Thu 23 Nov, 7-9pm

Performance Diary

Seedhill Playing Fields, Paisley

Thu 26 July, 7pm

Sat 28 July, 7pm

Sun 29 July, 3pm

REVIEW: The 8th Door / Bluebeard’s Castle – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Karen Cargill David Hayward Bluebeard's castle theatre Royal Scottish opera glasgow

You must admire the bold, brave, artistic choices that have characterised Scottish Opera’s current season. However, whether these choices resonate with its current, loyal audience remains to be seen.

Lliam Paterson and Vanishing Point’s Matthew Lenton’s new commission The 8th Door has been devised as a companion piece to Béla Bartók’s sublime Bluebeard’s Castle, the intention being that they, (according to the programme notes) “complement each other’s artistic ambition and vision, through a provocative evening”. This world-premiere work provides plenty food for thought.

A relationship plays out before us from its inception to its demise, two actors, facing video cameras, their backs to the audience, their emotions projected onto screens. From the pit, six voices, accompanied by a stunningly good orchestra, sing a text based on the works of Bartók’s artistic contemporaries: Endre Ady, Judit Frigyesi, Sándor Weöres and Attila József, as well as Edwin Morgan.

While Paterson’s score is innovative in its approach and delivery, it wears the influence of Bartók’s work on its sleeve. However, it suffers in comparison. While Bluebeard’s Castle is a masterpiece, a shimmering, intensely unsettling, but beautifully scored existential tragedy, The 8th Door feels unremittingly dull and repetitive. This coupled with Matthew Lenton’s direction and Kai Fischer’s design, which instead of bringing freshness and modernity, is oddly outdated. Locked in their own vision of ‘modernity’ they seem to have failed to notice the real innovations in staging that are currently happening in theatre. (On a side note, among the clock-watching and harrumphing, there were two different walk-outs at around the 10-15 minute mark in my corner of the auditorium, both only returning to hear Bartók’s piece).

While Paterson’s brand spanking new work seems long at 40 minutes, Bluebeard’s Castle whips along at a cracking pace. Bartók’s 1918 modernist horror work feeling more innovative, more compelling and more resonant. As Bluebeard and Judith, Robert Hayward and Karen Cargill are in stunning vocal form and the orchestra of Scottish Opera, in particular its brass section, have rarely sounded finer.

While a journey into darkness and an unremitting blackness unite the two works, it’s the near 100 year-old piece that really resonates.

Runs on selected dates until 1 April then touring to Edinburgh Festival Theatre on 5 and 8 April 2017

For more information visit http://www.scottishopera.org.com

REVIEW: Scottish Opera: The Trial – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The nightmarish world of Franz Kafka’s The Trial, a world of surveillance, authoritarian power and injustice, was a work of paranoid fantasy when it was written in 1914/15. However, in 2017, the subject matter of this modernist masterpiece, has proven to have an eerie prescience.

the-trial-4

Philip Glass’s 20th opera, a co-production between Music Theatre Wales, The Royal Opera, Theatre Magdeburg and Scottish Opera, faithfully follows Kafka’s original text, thanks to its pin-sharp libretto by Oscar-winner Christopher Hampton. Enhanced by its innovative score by Glass, this is opera for non-opera goers.

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In this surreal tale, it’s the morning of his 30th birthday, and the unsuspecting Josef K is arrested for an unspecified crime. Initially disbelieving, he refuses to think that this could end any other way but well, but those closest to him urge him to take the charges seriously. As time ticks ominously by, and confronted by a parade of unpredictable characters and absurd situations, (including a web-fingered maid, a portrait artist, lawyers, court officials and a pair of guards that are dead ringers for Tin Tin’s the Thompson Twins) he increasingly realises that this nightmare may be one from which he can never escape.

the-trial-2

There’s a danger that Kafka’s bleak story (though one that is blackly comic) coupled with Glass’s (in his own words) “music with repetitive structures”, played out on a minimalistic set, could be entirely one-dimensional, but it manages to be grippingly atmospheric. There are flashes of the great Bernard Herrmann in Glass’s score and the music matches the mood of the piece perfectly, a menacing bass line ramping up the discomfort throughout.

Sung in English, The Trial’s accessibility is one of its strengths, that and the talented eight-strong cast. Sure-footed and fine-voiced, Nicholas Lester delivers a well-judged Josef K, veering between nonchalance and despair perfectly. Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Elgin Llyr Thomas makes his mark too, a singer with a successful future ahead of him, he shines brightly in the array of roles he’s charged with tackling.

Scottish Opera’s first production of 2017 perfectly showcases the diverse repertoire the company is increasingly becoming known for.and long may it continue.

Next up for the company is Debussy’s Pelléas et Mélisande, a Sunday Series concert performance of L’Enfant Prodigue, a lesser-seen Debussy work and the much-loved Opera Highlights tour.

For more information visit: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk/

REVIEW: L’amico Fritz – The Sunday Series: Opera in Concert

Scottish Opera’s music director Stuart Stratford starts this year’s Sunday Series on a high note with an outstanding concert performance of Pietro Mascagni’s rarely seen, but utterly charming bucolic tale of unrequited love, L’amico Fritz.

Written after his verismo masterpiece Cavalleria Rusticana, Mascagni’s intention was to write a work as far removed from Cavalleria as he could and in L’amico, that is absolutely achieved, this is a simple, gentle, pastoral love story – there’s none of Cavalleria’s bloodshed and the body count is nil. It’s 19th Century, pre Franco-Prussia War Alsace where the Protestant and Jewish communities live in blissful harmony. Rabbi and local matchmaker David bets his friend, the marriage phobic, wealthy landowner Fritz Kobus that he will succumb, within the year, to the charms of married life. In the meantime Fritz falls in love with Suzette, the daughter of one of his tenants and a happy ending is guaranteed for all.

Stuart Stratford has previous form with L’amico, conducting a fully staged performance for Opera Holland Park in 2011, and his familiarity with, and love for the piece shines through. The Orchestra of Scottish Opera freed from the pit and onstage in their purpose-built acoustic shell, have rarely sounded better, the gorgeous melodies and beautiful lyricism of the piece are a ravishing treat for the ears. The singers are universally deserving of praise, with Peter Auty’s Fritz, Stephen Gadd’s David and Hanna Hipp in another ‘trouser role’ particularly fine.

If the glorious L’amico Fritz is a marker of the quality to be expected for the rest of the Sunday Series, then opera lovers in Scotland are in for a treat indeed.

The next offering from the Sunday Series will be Debussy’s L’enfant prodigue on 5th February 2017 at 3pm

For more information visit: https://www.scottishopera.org.uk

 

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.

ellie-laugharne-as-adina-elgan-llyr-thomas-as-nemorino-and-toby-girling-as-belcore-in-the-elixir-of-love-scottish-opera-2016-credit-tim-morozzo

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/

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