Tag Archives: ROLAND WOOD

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/