Opera Scotland

Christoph Willibald Gluck

Orfeo ed Euridice in Scotland

Posted 30 Dec 2014

The first performance in Scotland of Orfeo ed Euridice by Christoph Willibald Gluck was given at the Edinburgh Lyceum on 11 September 1893. The performance came from the Royal Italian Opera from London, touring under the management of Sir Augustus Harris. Our image is of Gluck. The title roles were played by a famous pair of Italian sisters: Giulia Ravogli, a contralto, sang Orfeo; Sofia, a soprano, sang Euridice.

The sisters returned to Scotland the following Autumn, singing the opera in Edinburgh and Glasgow. Between the two visits, the work briefly entered the repertoire of the Carl Rosa company, and both cities saw it sung in English, with Luise Meisslinger as Orpheus and Lily Heenan as Eurydice, in the Spring of 1894.

The opera was relatively neglected until Scottish Opera mounted it in Peter Ebert's staging, conducted by Sir Alexander Gibson, which opened on 17 October 1979. Dame Janet Baker sang Orfeo, with Margaret Marshall as Euridice and Marie McLaughlin as Amor.

Scottish Opera's second staging was for a medium-scale tour in 1993. The conductor was Harry Bicket, the director Anthony Fabian. The choruses and dances were arranged for four soloists. Orfeo was shared between two counter-tenors, Jonathan Peter Kenny and Simon Clulow. Euridice was performed by Lisa Milne, at the time still a student in Glasgow.

The most recent production by Scottish Opera, in 2002, was directed by choreographer Lucinda Childs and conducted by Raymond Leppard. The title roles were taken by Cecile van de Sant and Rachel Hynes, with Gillian Keith as Amor.

The Edinburgh International Festival showed the opera in 1996. Performed by the Mark Morris Dance Company, it was even more of an opera-dance hybrid than usual. It is the only occasion when the late Christopher Hogwood conducted opera in Scotland, and countertenor Michael Chance was a notable Orfeo. Dana Hanchard sang Euridice.

Sadler's Wells brought the work to Scotland in 1967, giving the French version (with tenor Alexander Young as Orpheus). The dance element was provided by Peter Darrell and Western Theatre Ballet, not long before they relocated to Scotland. The Perth Festival staged it in 1993. The opera has also received an amateur production, by the Edinburgh Opera Company in 1929.

Stephen Fraser operascotland.org, the website for opera listings and performance history. 

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