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NEWS: SCOTTISH OPERA ANNOUNCES ITS 2022/23 60TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON

Scottish Opera has unveiled its 2022/23 Season which includes four new mainstage productions, with one of the four an outdoor community opera, a revival of Don Giovanni, the world premiere of a Scottish Opera Young Company production, two Operas in Concert productions, two Opera Highlights tours, a Pop-up Opera tour, and the return of the hit ‘opera for babies’, BambinO. The Company travels to over 60 locations across the length and breadth of Scotland, demonstrating its commitment to bringing opera to as many communities as possible.

A truly international line-up of singers appears throughout the Season. Making their debuts with the Company are Zachary Altman, Viktor Antipenko, Pablo Bemsch, Francesca ChiejinaJulian Close, Lauren Fagan, Samantha Hankey, Andrew Henley, Emyr Wyn Jones, Julieth Lozano, Christopher Nairne, Paula Sides, Holly Teague, Alfredo Tejada and Shakira Tsindos.

There are welcome return visits from Susan Bullock, Osian Wyn Bowen, Karen Cargill, Sioned Gwen Davies, Zoe Drummond, Máire Flavin, Justina Gringyte, Aled Hall, Charlotte Hoather, Jessica Leary, Hye-Youn Lee, Jamie MacDougall, Jonathan McGovern, Andrew McTaggart, William Morgan, Colin Murray, Samuel Pantcheff, Sarah Power, Annie Reilly, Shengzhi Ren, Phillip Rhodes, Ronald Samm, John Savournin, Shuna Scott Sendall, Lea Shaw, Dan Shelvey, Richard Suart, Elgan Llŷr Thomas, Sinéad Campbell-Wallace, Keel Watson, Kitty WhatelyLouise WinterRoland Wood and Dingle Yandell.

Stuart Stratford, Scottish Opera Music Director said: ‘I’m so pleased to have the opportunity to unearth several operatic treasures with audiences across Scotland in our 60th Anniversary Season. Each production has such a rich aesthetic. They are all so vividly different, both visually and musically. There is much for audiences to look forward to, from the somewhat berserk promenade production of Bernstein’s Candide, to the beauty of Puccini’s triptych Il trittico, and the physical, theatrical opera-meets-flamenco of Ainadamar in what will be a directorial debut for the world-renowned choreographer Deborah Colker. This is a must-see for all fans of dance, theatre, music and of course opera. I am really excited by the many wonderful singers joining us this Season, from fresh new talent, including current and former Scottish Opera Emerging Artists, to well-known names.’

Alex Reedijk, Scottish Opera General Director said: ‘We are truly delighted to be able to launch our 2022/23 60th Anniversary Season, our first Season announcement since 2019.  We are incredibly proud of our work throughout the pandemic, so much so that we have decided to continue our open-air productions with both a large-scale community opera in Glasgow and our intimate Pop-up Opera that tours throughout Scotland.

‘Partnerships are so crucial to the Company, and we’re thrilled to develop a new relationship with Maryhill Integration Network, an organisation bringing migrants, asylum seekers, and settled inhabitants of Glasgow together through art. We’ll be collaborating again with Opera Ventures after past successes with Missy Mazzoli’s Breaking the Waves and Mark-Anthony Turnage’s Greek. And we are delighted to return to the Lammermuir Festival with a hidden gem – Massenet’s Thérèse. We continue our mission to ensure communities right across Scotland can experience live opera on their doorsteps, with performances in over 60 locations in our 60th Anniversary Season. We are also launching a new series of Access Opera to help those who have difficulty attending general performances. These offer a stress-free environment, without the worry of crowded spaces or the need to be silent. We hope that the popular and wide-ranging repertoire available this Season offers something for everyone, and encourages those who haven’t yet experienced the thrill of live opera.’

Productions:

Don Giovanni

A revival of Mozart’s Don Giovanni, its first since the 2013 premiere, opened on 15 May at Theatre Royal Glasgow. Directed by renowned baritone and newly appointed Scottish Opera President Sir Thomas Allen, this dark and atmospheric production tours to Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, with a special performance on 5 June in Edinburgh to mark Scottish Opera’s 60th Birthday.

 

Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford (15 May – 25 June) and Head of Music Derek Clark (16 -18 June) conduct an exciting cast that includes Roland Wood (Falstaff 2021) and Jonathan McGovern (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022), sharing the role of the titular anti-hero. They are joined by Hye-Youn Lee (Nixon in China 2020), Kitty Whately (Hansel and Gretel On Screen 2021), Keel Watson and Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Lea Shaw (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022). Set in the backstreets of 17th century Venice, designs are by Simon Higlett, who worked with Sir Thomas on his much-loved 2019 production of The Magic Flute.

 

Don Giovanni is supported by The Scottish Opera Syndicate.

Candide

This August, a second year of Live at No. 40 takes place in Glasgow with a new outdoor promenade production of Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. There will be six performances of this vibrant and contemporary take on Bernstein’s satirical opera held under a purpose-built marquee tent at Scottish Opera’s Production Studios. The Citizens Theatre, who performed at last year’s Live at No.40, will also present a production with more details to be announced soon.

 

Candide, written by Bernstein before he composed his hit musical West Side Story and based on the novel by Voltaire, follows larger-than-life characters in chaotic adventures across Europe and South America. Full of imagination and comedy, the production is updated for the specific challenges of capitalism and globalism in today’s world, celebrating all of life’s beautiful, messy stories along the way.

 

Directed by Jack Furness (Opera Highlights 2018) and designed by Tim Meacock (Pagliacci 2018), William Morgan (The Gondoliers 2022) plays the idealist Candide, with Paula Sides as his beloved Cunegonde. They are joined by an ensemble cast that includes Ronald Samm (Pagliacci 2018), Susan Bullock (Breaking the Waves 2019), Jamie MacDougall (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022), Dan Shelvey (The Gondoliers 2022) and Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Lea Shaw (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022). Stuart Stratford conducts The Orchestra of Scottish Opera and an 80-strong community chorus, in partnership with Maryhill Integration Network, an organisation bringing migrants, asylum seekers and settled inhabitants of Glasgow together through art.

 

Candide is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera, Scottish Opera’s Education Angels, and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.

 

Ainadamar (The Fountain of Tears)

This October, the Scottish premiere and first fully-staged UK production of Ainadamar (the Spanish pronunciation of the Arabic name ‘Ayn al-dam’, meaning ‘The Fountain of Tears’) by Argentinian composer Osvaldo Golijov and acclaimed American librettist David Henry Hwang, takes place at Theatre Royal Glasgow, before transferring to Festival Theatre Edinburgh.

 

Exploring the life and work of playwright and poet Federico García Lorca, Ainadamar premiered in 2003 in Tanglewood and is Golijov’s first opera, combining opera with flamenco dance and song. This new co-production with Opera Ventures (Breaking the Waves 2019 and Greek 2017), Detroit Opera, The Metropolitan Opera and Welsh National Opera, is directed by Olivier Award-winning choreographer and director Deborah Colker and designed by Jon Bausor. Known for her intensely physical dance work with Cirque du Soleil and the 2016 Olympics Opening Ceremony, as well as her own Companhia de Dança, Deborah is making her much-anticipated opera directorial debut.

 

Stuart Stratford conducts the internationally celebrated mezzo-soprano Samantha Hankey in the role of Lorca, whose anti-fascist stance and open homosexuality led to his death in 1936 at the hands of Franco’s Nationalists during the Spanish Civil War. The story, which reimagines the political drama of the early 20th century, centres around Lorca, his muse Margarita Xirgu, sung by Lauren Fagan, and her student Nuria, sung by Julieth Lozano.

Ainadamar is supported by Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and Sarah and Howard Solomon Foundation.

 

Il trittico: Il tabarro, Suor Angelica and Gianni Schicchi  

Following the success of his 2021 Falstaff production, Sir David McVicar returns to Scottish Opera in March 2023 with a new staging of Il trittico. This is the first time Sir David has directed Puccini’s epic triptych, and the first time Scottish Opera has staged it.

 

A new co-production with Welsh National Opera, with set designs by Charles Edwards, the trio of glorious one-act operas about love and loss will tour to Theatre Royal Glasgow and Festival Theatre Edinburgh. Il tabarro (The Cloak) sees a wife trapped in a marriage she longs to escape, Suor Angelica (Sister Angelica) tells the story of an outsider forced in to a life for which she has no vocation, and Gianni Schicchi focuses on a dysfunctional family caught in the snare of a shameless conman.

 

Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford conducts Roland Wood (Falstaff 2021), Sinéad Campbell-Wallace (The Puccini Collection 2021), Viktor Antipenko, Julian Close, Aled Hall (Falstaff 2021), Francesca Chiejina, Louise Winter (Falstaff 2021), Máire Flavin (Opera Highlights 2018) and internationally-acclaimed Scottish mezzo-soprano Karen Cargill (Bluebeard’s Castle 2017). They are joined by former Scottish Opera Emerging Artists Elgan Llŷr Thomas (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022) and Sioned Gwen Davies (The Gondoliers 2022).

 

Puccini’s scores, including the favourite ‘O mio babbino caro’ in Gianni Schicchi, each boast their own vivid sound world yet fit together into a satisfying whole. With Il trittico’s earlier start, and a long second interval for dinner and drinks, audiences can expect a truly memorable theatrical experience and the chance to hear all three operas in one night as Puccini intended.

 

The production is supported by Dunard FundThe Alexander Gibson Circle, Scottish Opera’s ‘Play a Supporting Role’ Appeal, and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.

 

Carmen

Following his much-lauded production of Nixon in China in 2020, John Fulljames returns to Scottish Opera in May 2023 to direct Georges Bizet’s Carmen, concluding the Company’s 60th Season. This bold new production is sung in English with set and prop design by Sarah Beaton and costumes by Christina Cunningham. Taking place in 1970s Spain amidst the unrest and upheaval of that time, the investigation into Carmen’s murder runs alongside the systems that led to her death.

 

Justina Gringyte (Edgar 2018) sings the title role in this classic opera of jealousy, lust, and an outsider struggling to carve out a life by her own rules in a militaristic and patriarchal society. Also in the cast are Hye-Youn Lee (Nixon in China 2020) and Phillip Rhodes (Falstaff 2021), along with four of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists Zoe DrummondLea ShawOsian Wyn Bowen and Colin Murray.

 

Audiences can enjoy such hits as the Habanera, Flower Aria and Toreador Song, alongside Bizet’s magnificent orchestral interludes and spectacular chorus numbers. Conducted by Dane Lam (La Traviata 2017), Carmen tours to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Inverness, and Aberdeen.

 

Carmen is supported by The Scottish Opera Syndicate.

 

Opera in Concert: Thérèse & The Verdi Collection

In September 2022, Scottish Opera returns to Lammermuir Festival in East Lothian with Jules Massenet’s Thérèse, at St Mary’s Church in Haddington. This heart-wrenching work of French Romanticism then travels to Perth Concert Hall.

 

These concert performances of Thérèse, with Justina Gringyte (Edgar 2018) in the title role, are directed by Roxana Haines and conducted by Anu Tali, making her Scottish Opera debut. Also in the cast are Shengzhi Ren (Opera Highlights 2022), Dingle Yandell (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022), Dan Shelvey (The Gondoliers 2022) and Emerging Artist Colin Murray.

 

Telling the story of a woman who finds herself at a crossroad, caught between her husband, a revolutionary representative, and her former lover, who is a deposed nobleman and her husband’s close friend, Massenet’s sumptuous opera sits against the backdrop of the French Revolution and Robespierre’s infamous Reign of Terror.

 

Touring to Aberdeen, Inverness, Glasgow and Edinburgh in November and February, is The Verdi Collection. These concerts, conducted by Stuart Stratford with The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, will feature the romance of La traviata, the intrigue of Un ballo in maschera, the passion of La forza del destino, the domestic tragedy of Otello, and Don Carlo.

 

Thérèse and The Verdi Collection are supported by Friends of Scottish Opera and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.

 

Emerging Artists

The Company is thrilled to once again offer a group of young artists a period of full-time work at the beginning of their careers. The Emerging Artists have opportunities to perform with Scottish Opera in live productions throughout the year, as well as work in-house with staff and visiting coaches to develop their skills. Our 2022/23 artists are soprano Zoe Drummond, mezzo-soprano Lea Shaw (returning for a second Season), tenor Osian Wyn Bowen, baritone Colin Murray and repetiteur Kristina Yorgova.

 

The Emerging Artists, supported by Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artist Benefactors and Elizabeth Salvesen, will perform in the Company’s productions as well as three recitals in University of St Andrews, University of Glasgow and Royal Conservatoire of Scotland.

 

Opera Highlights

There will be two tours of the much-loved Opera Highlights in Autumn this year and Spring 2023, when four talented singers and a pianist travel to local venues all over Scotland. Emma Jenkins (National Opera Studio’s Anarchy at the Opera 2022) directs Scottish Opera Emerging Artists Zoe Drummond and Osian Wyn Bowen, along with Shakira Tsindos, and Christopher Nairne in the Autumn, and Holly TeagueAnnie ReillyAndrew Henley and Emerging Artist Colin Murray in the Spring. Once again, the music is skilfully curated by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark, who combines operatic favourites with lesser-known gems. The Music Director/Pianist is Emerging Artist repetiteur Kristina Yorgova (Autumn tour), and Janis Hart returns as designer.

 

The Autumn Tour, from 22 September to 29 October visits Dundee, Markinch, Fraserburgh, Forres, Banchory, Cullivoe, Lerwick, Linlithgow, Town Yetholm, Stranraer, Castle Douglas, Dunlop, Gartmore, Biggar, Glenuig, Gairloch and Durness. Tickets are on sale this summer.

 

The Spring Tour, from 14 February to 25 March in 2023 visits East Kilbride, Crail, Garvald, Perth, Stonehaven, Boat of Garten, Invergarry, Wick, Kirkwall, Ullapool, Torridon, Isle of Skye, Oban, Campbeltown, Bowmore, Gretna, Hawick and Ayr. Tickets are on sale this winter.

 

Opera Highlights is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera.

 

Pre show talks, Accessible and Audio-described performances

The Company recently launched new afternoon Accessible shows to allow audience members the flexibility and freedom to relax and move about as required during performances. This Season there will be Accessible performances (supported by Scottish Opera’s Education Angels) of Don GiovanniGianni Schicchi and Carmen in Glasgow, Inverness, Edinburgh and Aberdeen.

 

With Dementia Friendly values at their core, these shorter performances (under two hours including an interval) are open to all, whether you’re recovering from an operation, have breathing difficulties, are living with dementia, have a young baby or on the autism spectrum.

 

The Access performances, which include a presenter to help guide audiences through the story, are conducted by Head of Music Derek Clark, and performed by a cast of singers. Doors open 45 minutes before the start time so there’s no need to rush, brighter lighting levels than usual in the auditorium and there are television screens around the theatre if you’d prefer to watch in the lobby or sit in a quiet area.

 

Half-hour pre-show talks, delving into the detail of AinadamarIl trittico and Carmen are also available this season. Those who are visually impaired can take advantage of audio-described performances, where a live commentary is provided, describing the action on stage without compromising the music. As part of the experience a recorded introduction to the opera is provided in advance, and there is a free Touch Tour of the set and a live audio introduction before the start of the performance.

 

Education and Outreach

 

Pop-up Opera

This summer, audiences can look forward to three brilliant half-hour Pop-up Opera shows. Touring around Scotland in June and July are A Little Bit of Barber and A Little Bit of Figaro, two cleverly-rewritten versions of Rossini’s and Mozart’s classic comedies. Arranged by Scottish Opera’s Head of Music, Derek Clark, they follow the adventures of the mischievous barber Figaro.

 

Children aged four to eight can enjoy Be A Sport, Spike!, a Scottish Opera original composed by Karen MacIver with words by Ross Stenhouse, first commissioned for the 2018 European Championships Festival in Glasgow. It tells the story of Mike ‘The Spike’ McTavish, the greatest sportsman the world has ever seen. There’s no-one who can run faster, jump higher or swim further than mega-fit Spike. But there is one thing that Spike can’t do – sing! Audiences will join Spike and his friends as he starts to exercise those vocal chords, and finds out that a little perseverance can go a long way.

 

Each outdoor performance is brought to life by a series of colourful illustrations, storyteller Allan Dunn, sopranos Sarah Power and Jessica Leary, baritone Andrew McTaggart, cellist Andrew Drummond Huggan and guitarist Sasha Savaloni.

 

The tour kicks off on 3 June in Glamis, then travels to Dundee, Glasgow, Mugdock, Aberdeen, Ellon, Stonehaven, Inverness, Strathpeffer, Coatbridge, Greenock, North Bragar, Carradale, Rothesay, Dumfries, Musselburgh, Bearsden, Stirling, Perth and Edinburgh Park.

 

Pop-up Opera is supported by Friends of Scottish Opera.

 

BambinO

This August and September, audiences have the chance once again to see former Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Lliam Paterson’s five star ‘opera for babies’, BambinO, in East Kilbride, Perth, Inverness, Banchory, Aberdeen, Edinburgh and Motherwell with more venues to be announced.

 

A co-production with Manchester International Festival and Improbable, director Lissa Lorenzo revives this delightful piece of music theatre for infants up to 12 months, originally directed by Phelim McDermott.  With stunning designs by Emma & Giuseppe BelliBambinO tells the story of a young bird leaving its nest for the first time. Charlotte Hoather and Samuel Pantcheff reprise the roles of Ulcellina and Pulcino, accompanied by cellist Andrew Drummond Huggan, and percussionist Darren Gallacher.  The musical director is Chris Gray.

 

Since it premiered in 2017, BambinO has toured around the world to great acclaim, including to New York and Paris, as well as Manchester International Festival, Edinburgh Fringe and Glasgow.

 

BambinO is supported by Scottish Opera’s Education Angels and New Commissions Circle.

 

Rubble

This July, Scottish Opera’s Elmbank Crescent premises hosts the world premiere of Rubble, a new piece from acclaimed composer Gareth Williams and Scottish theatre legend Johnny McKnight. Specially commissioned for Scottish Opera Education’s 50th Anniversary, members of Scottish Opera Young Company, who are aged 17 to 23, are joined by professional soprano Shuna Scott Sendall (The Tsar Has His Photograph Taken 2021), to tell this searingly honest, at times darkly comedic, story. Roxana Haines directs and Chris Gray, Scottish Opera Young Company Artistic Director, is the conductor.

 

Rubble follows a group of young people as they stand amongst the debris of Findenterran Farm, until recently a children’s home. As they pick through the shattered fragments of their childhood, they speak of what really went on in that largely ignored property on the outskirts of town. Rubble gives a voice to those who were ignored and overlooked by society while their youth was quietly stolen from them, and the cast and creative team have worked with ARTiculate Art Therapy to being this world safely to life.

 

This production is supported by Scottish Opera’s Education Angels, Scottish Opera’s New Commissions Circle and The Leverhulme Trust Arts Scholarship Grant.

 

Breath Cycle

The Company’s groundbreaking Breath Cycle returns for three more 10-week blocks in October, January and April. The free online project, designed to benefit those suffering from a range of conditions affecting lung health, in particular long Covid, was made with support from key NHS consultants.

 

Composer Gareth Williams and singers David DouglasJessica Leary and Daniela Hathaway lead the weekly sessions via Zoom, introducing participants to fun and stimulating songs, vocal exercises and breathing techniques in the comfort of their own home. The benefits of singing regularly are widely recognised, from improved lung function, posture and circulation to a strengthened immune system and core, better breath control and relief from stress and anxiety.

 

Participants can also sign up for song writing workshops with performance poet, Martin O’Connor, which run for eight weeks alongside each Breath Cycle block. These sessions are aimed at giving participants tools to get songs on paper and into the world. The songs will be arranged and recorded by Scottish Opera to create a free digital resource for individuals and singing groups worldwide as a positive musical legacy of the past two years. The Covid Composer’s Songbook will officially launch later this year, and a selection of songs composed during the song writing workshops are available to hear now on Scottish Opera’s website.

 

Breath Cycle is supported by Cruach TrustThe Murdoch Forrest Charitable TrustW M Mann FoundationSouter Charitable Trust, and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.

 

Memory Spinners

Memory Spinners, a project designed to engage with people living with dementia through music and art, returns for more free sessions in Glasgow. First launched in 2012, these use music, storytelling, movement and the visual arts to help participants and their carers relax, get creative, and form new support networks. Over an eight-week period, rehearsals and visual arts activities build towards a short performance inspired by the music, characters and storyline of a popular piece from the operatic repertoire to which friends and families are invited.

 

The R S Macdonald Charitable TrustLife Changes TrustSylvia Aitken Charitable TrustBellahouston Bequest FundRKT Harris TrustJ Macdonald Menzies Charitable TrustTrades House of Glasgow (Commonwealth Fund), and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels supports Memory Spinners.

 

Sweet Sounds in Wild Places

On display this Season in the Borders, Edinburgh and Glasgow (venues to be announced on the Scottish Opera website) is original art from Sweet Sounds in Wild Places, a series of free workshops led by Scottish Opera to help build creative skills and increase self-confidence and self-expression, in partnership with The Abbotsford Trust and Live Borders!

 

During the sessions artists from the Company used music, creative writing, film and photography to empower those who have been struggling during lockdown. Forming part of the 250th anniversary celebrations of Sir Walter Scott, his novel The Bride of Lammermoor was used as inspiration to explore issues such as loneliness, isolation and lack of empowerment, as well as the impact, for good and bad, that landscape and environment can have on mental health and well-being.

 

Sweet Sounds in Wild Places is supported by The Cruden Foundation and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.

 

School activity

This Season, The Last Aliens and The Curse of the MacCabbra Opera House are available to schools. Teachers can sign up to access online teaching resources to work through with their pupils, which includes audio and video teaching aids, as well as a series of practical tasks and exercises, or choose to work in person with our highly-trained artists.

 

The Last Aliens, a newly commissioned work from composer Alan Penman with lyrics by Ross Stenhouse, is an intergalactic adventure for primary 5 to 7 pupils. A funny and relevant story about saving Planet Earth, they learn five fantastic songs in their own classrooms, and then the Scottish Opera Teaching Artists team arrive at the school for a morning to teach movement and choreography to prepare for a 30-minute performance in front of fellow pupils, friends and family. In a normal year, close to 9,000 children across Scotland take part in these performances with many more thousands of friends and families coming to see them in action.

 

The Curse of the MacCabbra Opera House, on tour in 2023, is a 30-minute opera for primary 5 to 7. A chilling gothic tale with a good dose of comedy, The Curse of the MacCabbra Opera House features music from Alan Penman and lyrics from writer and director Johnny McKnight.

 

Scottish Opera has expanded its resources for school-aged children to reach secondary students. A series of special lessons for students are designed around Donizetti’s classic comedy, L’elisir d’amore, where they will learn about history, drama and storytelling. This includes several newly-written endings devised by the Company. More information will be available soon from the Scottish Opera website.

 

There is also The Water Rabbit, a brand new online resource for all Primary Confucius Classroom Hubs.

 

These projects are supported by Harbinson Charitable TrustDavid & June Gordon Memorial TrustHayward Sanderson Trust and Scottish Opera’s Education Angels.

 

Disney Musicals in Schools

Scottish Opera and Disney Musicals in Schools are once again collaborating to give primary schools in Scotland the opportunity to learn and produce their own Disney KIDS musical, which are shorter stage adaptions of classic Disney stories written expressly for primary school performers. The programme aims to build skills and confidence in both pupils and teachers, encourage participation and collaboration, and leave a sustainable arts legacy for years to come, especially in schools that are actively seeking greater engagement with the arts.

 

Over a 17-week period, the Scottish Opera teaching artists guide pupils through music and movement, and work with staff to give them experience in singing, stage directing, choreography and stage management. The schools are also provided with a Disney Show Kit including scripts, director’s guide, music score, choreography DVD, and rehearsal and accompaniment CDs.

 

The programme with Disney and Scottish Opera first took place in Scotland in 2019 and involved primary schools in Irvine, Paisley, Stirling, Galashiels and Johnstone, but was sadly cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The schools involved, from Glasgow, Wemyss Bay, Faifley, Renfrew and Kilmarnock, have since been able to continue the project over the last few months, and will present their shows in Spring 2022.

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: Tosca – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Sumptuous, stunning, shocking, and still sensational, Anthony Besch’s production for Scottish Opera of Giacomo Puccini’s once decried, but now beloved, “shabby little shocker” Tosca, still has the power to stir almost 40 years on. As evidenced by the packed house, this ninth revival, is as popular as ever, and rightly so.

Now widely utilised, but ground-breaking in the 1980s, was Besch’s re-setting of the work from the Napoleonic era to 1940s Fascist-era Rome, and the production looks and feels as fresh and relevant as the moment it first appeared.

As the curtain rises on Peter Rice’s glorious set there is an audible gasp from both those new to this production and those in the audience welcoming home an old and much-loved friend from its extensive travels around the globe. The magnificent realisation of the church of Sant’Andrea della Valle, is truly breath-taking, never more so than in the Te Deum, where the splendidly clad clergy and congregation bring the curtain down on the first act. The representations of Scarpio’s office in the Palazzo Farnese and the ramparts of the Castel Sant’Angelo are just as magnificent and historically accurate.

Puccini’s sublime music sounds strikingly modern and almost cinematic throughout, and the orchestra under the baton of Stuart Stratford sounds majestic, managing to strike the perfect balance of power without ever overwhelming the singers.

Natalya Romaniw is an out-standing Tosca, seamlessly marrying her stunning vocals to beautifully measured and highly convincing acting skills. Roland Wood is an assured Scarpia, but it is Gwyn Hughes Jones as Cavaradossi who is the knock out of the evening, never was a voice more perfectly married to a role, he is truly stunning.

This is a five-star, breath-taking production in every respect, and the perfect example of what opera can and should be.

Runs until 26 October 2019, then touring to Inverness, Aberdeen and Edinburgh.

For more information visit Scottish Opera

IMAGES: JAMES GLOSSOP

 

 

REVIEW: Carmen, Scottish Opera – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Its accessibility; clarity of narrative; portrayal of an independent, strong-minded woman and a clutch of knockout, familiar tunes make Georges Bizet’s Carmen undoubtedly one of the best-loved operas of all time and certainly one of the most frequently performed (though, surprisingly not in Scotland*).

Scottish Opera present a re-working of Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser’s 1999 staging of the work. Forming a bridge between the era of Opéra Comique and the realism of the later 19th Century Italian opera, Carmen is the perfect first opera. Bizet’s skill in representing character through music, the clear, linear narrative and the block-busting tunes, rarely fail to entrance.

Scottish Opera have delivered a solid, traditional and atmospheric production with a top-notch cast. Lithuanian mezzo-soprano Justina Gringyte is impressive as the head-strong gypsy temptress and her powerful voice does full justice to Bizet’s glorious score. Noah Stewart is velvet-voiced as the wronged Don Jose, and Roland Wood a solid, if unremarkable Escamillo. Nadine Livingstone is a beautiful sounding Micaela, but her tendency to whimper too much fails to gain the audiences sympathy and the chemistry between her and Stewart’s Don Jose is non-existent. There’s strong support from the other featured roles, in particular, Timothy Dickinson who delivers a memorable Zuniga.

The choruses both child and adult (especially the chain-smoking, primary school aged tykes, blowing smoke with an attitude and insouciance that belies their years) are glorious and produce a rich sound that is a treat for the ears.

This is a strong, solid staging of a much-loved work and a perfect introduction to opera for those wanting to dip their toe in the water.

Carmen tours Scotland throughout October and November details at: Scottish Opera

*Carmen was not performed in its original Fench in Scotland until 1977.

REVIEW: Il trovatore – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

The great Caruso famously stated: “all it takes for a successful performance of Il trovatore is the four greatest singers in the world”, and it must be acknowledged that it is a brave company indeed who takes on this much-loved melodramatic, but ultimately gloomy masterpiece of Verdi’s. Scottish Opera may not have found the magical four in this production but they certainly have two truly outstanding singers in Gwyn Hughes Jones’ troubadour of the title and Anne Mason’s Gypsy Azucena.

With an almost incomprehensible plot, at best it could be described as unconventional, it certainly stretches the boundaries of belief, this difficult to stage work relies on Verdi’s masterful music to make sense of proceedings.

Martin Lloyd-Evans’ revamping of the Company’s 1992 simplistic but soaring set design does little to aide an often too-static production other than setting the atmosphere firmly in the Middle Ages, but it must be said that it doesn’t hinder the narrative, rather lending it a welcome cohesion.

What elevates this production is a hugely talented cast. Claire Rutter is an assured Leonora, coping with ease with this notoriously difficult to sing role, Roland Wood’s Count di Luna is both commanding in presence as well as voice, but it is Anna Mason’s emotive Azucena and Gwyn Hughes Jones gloriously voiced Manrico who truly capture the eye and ear.

The chorus under the direction of Susannah Wapshott is particularly fine sounding, however the much-anticipated Anvil Chorus is a tad underwhelming, more tinkling triangle than arresting anvil.

Under the brisk baton of Tobias Ringborg the Orchestra of Scottish Opera sound full blooded throughout.

This is a traditional, assured, no-frills production with a fine cast and a blistering orchestra: highly recommended.

Runs until 17 May 2015 then touring.

This article was original written for and published by The Public Reviews at: http://www.thepublicreviews.com/il-trovatore-theatre-royal-glasgow/