Tag Archives: Stuart Stratford

NEWS: OPERAVISION TO STREAM FULL PERFORMANCE OF SCOTTISH OPERA’S ANTHROPOCENE IN MAY

Anthropocene, the acclaimed new work commissioned by Scottish Opera from composer Stuart MacRae and librettist Louise Welsh, will be available to watch on OperaVision from May.

Directed by Matthew Richardson, designed by Samal Blak and conducted by Scottish Opera Music Director Stuart Stratford, Anthropocene had its world premiere in January at Theatre Royal Glasgow, and tells the story of an expeditionary team of scientists who become trapped in the frozen Arctic wastelands.

The film of Anthropocene, directed for OperaVision by Jonathan Haswell and produced by Andrew Lockyer, was made at a performance at London’s Hackney Empire, on 9 February. The full performance will be available to view worldwide on the free streaming platform from 17 May to 17 November, and is the first time a Scottish Opera production has been featured on OperaVision.

Launched in 2017, OperaVision – curated by Opera Europa, the European association of opera companies and festivals – streams performances from all over the world, allowing viewers to watch productions from the greatest European opera houses from the comfort of their own home. As well as full-length performances shown with subtitles, it features extracts, interviews and behind the scenes footage.

Anthropocene’s superb ensemble cast includes former Scottish Opera Emerging Artist Jennifer France (Ariadne auf Naxos 2018), Scottish soprano Jeni Bern and Stephen Gadd (Rigoletto 2018.) They are joined by Benedict Nelson (The Burning Fiery Furnace 2018), Mark Le Brocq, Paul Whelan, Anthony Gregory and Sarah Champion (Opera Highlights 2018).

Anthropocene is the fourth collaboration between MacRae and Welsh, a fruitful partnership initially born of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 Opera Made in Scotland series, which paired composers and librettists to create five 15-minute operas. The composer-librettist team went on to create Remembrance Day in 2009, Ghost Patrol in 2012, which won a South Bank Sky Arts Award and was nominated for an Olivier Award, and 2016’s The Devil Inside, based on a short story by Robert Louis Stevenson.

Inverness-born MacRae’s work has been performed at the Royal Opera House and Edinburgh International Festival, and by ensembles including Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Hebrides Ensemble. He is currently Composer in Association at Lammermuir Festival.

A Professor of Creative Writing at University of Glasgow, Welsh is the author of a number of popular novels including award-winning The Cutting Room and Plague Times Trilogy.

Scottish Opera General Director Alex Reedijk said: ‘This film of Anthropocene by OperaVision is a very important first for Scottish Opera. Performing at Hackney Empire was a double win for us, as it brought Anthropocene to a London audience and, through this film shot there, allows us to introduce this exciting new work to an international audience. It’s a great opportunity to show off the incredible work of Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh, who are such an important part of Scottish Opera’s history, as well as the talented cast and The Orchestra of Scottish Opera.’

Nicholas Payne, Opera Europa Director said: ‘Anthropocene grabbed me from the start and held me throughout with the twists and changes of its riveting story. Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh skilfully deploy music and words to create tension. They do not preach to us in the audience, but we are compelled to reflect on its relevance to our contemporary world. Chilling!’

Anthropocene is available to watch from 17 May at https://operavision.eu/en

REVIEW: Flight – Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Jonathan Dove and April De Angelis’ contemporary opera Flight is almost universally loved and with good reason. A knockout score and a story filled with both drama and humour make it a hit with audiences world wide.

Image: James Glossop

Beginning as a story about a series of couples stranded at an airport due to electrical storms, librettist De Angelis discovered the real-life story of Mehran Karimi Nasseri stranded at Charles de Gaulle Airport from 1988 to 2006 (a story which spawned a book The Terminal Man; French movie Tombés du ciel (Lost in Transit); the Steven Spielberg film The Terminal; short story The Fifteen Year Layover; two documentaries Waiting For Godot at De Gaulle and Sir Alfred of Charles De Gaulle Airport as well as the mockumentary Here To Where) and she and Dove wove the story of a refugee hiding at the terminal around the more comic aspects of the opera. The relationships unravel and entwine and all the while the refugee strives to overcome his plight.

Image: James Glossop

Many of the cast reprise their roles from the previous Opera Holland Park production (Jennifer France as the Controller, Victoria Simmonds as Minskwoman and James Laing as the Refugee) and their comfort and familiarity with the roles shows, especially Countertenor Laing whose voice gives goose bumps) however, while France has an impressive top range she was a little underpowered at times). Peter Auty (Bill) and Stephanie Corley (Tina) provide comic relief as the long-married couple seeking to spice up their marriage as do Jonathan McGovern and Sioned Gwen Davies as the randy Steward and Stewardess.

Image: James Glossop

Image: James Glossop

The music has a mid-century cinema musical feel – almost Bernstein or Gershwin-like, it is, at all times, melodic and an absolute joy to the ear. However, personally I can’t help wonder if it would have sounded better for being less ‘operatic’ and more ‘musical theatre’: the operatic voices, in this production all excellent, don’t entirely do the fabulous score justice.

Image: James Glossop

This re-imagined production by director Stepehn Barlow and the design team of Andrew Riley, Richard Howell and Jack Henry James is an absolute joy to watch and listen to, a welcome addition to this season’s operatic programme at Scottish Opera and one not to miss.

Image: James Glossop

The production continues at Glasgow Theatre Royal until 24 February then at the Festival Theatre Edinburgh from 1 to 3 March 2018. 

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.

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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