Opera Scotland

Betrothal in a Monastery 2012Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Read more about the opera Betrothal in a Monastery (Duenna)

Scottish Opera's 2011-12 season was its fiftieth, with celebrations in order, though the tone was muted. There was a sense of relief that the company had survived recent turmoils, and the level of activity was much reduced. The full-scale productions began in the autumn with a revival of Thomas Allen's Barber of Seville staging. In the New Year there were new productions of Hansel and Gretel and The Rake's Progress, along with a welcome revival of the vintage Tosca production. In the absence of any invitation to play the main festival in 2011, the first item in the season was a staging on the Edinburgh Fringe of Weill's Seven Deadly Sins. This was followed by a third co-operation with Music Theatre Wales at the Traverse - the highly dramatic Greek. The autumn repertoire also had a medium scale tour of Orpheus in the Underworld. In January the Russian co-productions with the Conservatoire continued, with Prokofiev's Betrothal in a Monastery. There was also the expected Highlands and Islands concert party under the Opera Highlights label. In June, the company's 50th anniversary was celebrated with a single concert performance, well-cast, of those old stalwarts from days of yore, Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci.

The final week of January is now one of the most important periods in our operatic calendar. It was seven years since the obvious proximity of the Academy students to Glasgow Theatre Royal led to a collaboration which has been fruitful for the students and for Scottish Opera's orchestral and technical staff. Scottish Opera's senior specialist artisans and technicians worked with the Royal Conservatoire's costume makers, set builders and lighting and stage technicians throughout the process.

The third work by Prokofiev to be tackled, Betrothal in a Monastery, based on The Duenna, by Sheridan, had previously been performed in Scotland only by the Bolshoi at the 1990 Festival, and by a previous generation of Academy students in 1997. On this occasion the idiom of the production was modern - indeed it would have been more of a surprise if it had been 18th century. It generally worked well, though inevitably there were some dissenters. And the mobile fish stall didn't really show why Mendoza was so rich.

The energy of the whole performance was superb, and the sound of the massed chorus overwhelming. The performance was sung in clear English (uncredited translation) with the help of English supertitles. The very large orchestra produced a lovely big sound when needed, but Tim Dean was also always able to control them so the singers were never in danger of being drowned.

What pleased most about the cast was simply the lack of any kind of weak link. The singing was consistently to a high standard, and Rónan Busfield, in the extremely long and high lying character tenor role of Don Jerome, showed no sign of fatigue. The Duenna herself, Lynda-Jane Nelson, has a beautiful voice, which really does sound like a proper contralto in the making. The quartet of lovers was dramatically as well as vocally convincing. with some lovely duet and ensemble singing. Kim-Lillian Strebel (Swiss), Anush Hovhannisyan (Armenian), Emanoel Velozo (Brazilian) and Mikhail Pavlov (Russian) all created strongly differentiated characters singing crystal clear English, and demonstrating (apart from everything else) the success with which the Conservatoire holds a place in the international teaching community.

The opera itself does have one or two sections or scenes which outstay their welcome. But there are so many wonderful things in it that it really should be heard more often. And you do feel that Prokofiev was writing for young voices. Perhaps the Conservatoire should stage the piece every decade or so, as they do with Carmélites, Lucretia and one or two other pieces.

Performance Cast

Don Jerome a nobleman of Seville

Rónan Busfield (Jan 20, 28)

Jakob Holtze (Jan 21, 26)

Ferdinand Don Jerome's son

Mikhail Pavlov

Louisa Don Jerome's daughter

Kim Lillian Strebel

Duenna to Louisa

Lynda-Jane Nelson

Antonio Louisa's suitor

Emanoel Velozo

Clara Louisa's friend

Anush Hovhannisyan

Mendoza a rich fish merchant

Andrew Tipple (Jan 20, 28)

Ross McInroy (Jan 21, 26)

Don Carlos a friend of Don Jerome

Andrew McTaggart

Father Augustine a monk

Jon Stainsby

Brother Elixir a monk

Matthew Todd

Brother Chartreuse a monk

David O'Hanlon

Brother Benedictine a monk

Bartholomew Lawrence

Lauretta Louisa's maid

Hazel McBain

Rosina Clara's maid

Alison McNeill

Lopez Ferdinand's servant

Richard Pratt

Pedro Mendoza's servant

Luke Sinclair

Pablo Mendoza's servant

Gitai Fisher

Miguel Mendoza's servant

Euros Campbell

First Masker

Jonathan Cooke

Second Masker

Christopher Nairne

Third Masker

Dominic Barberi

First Servant

James Slimings

Second Servant

Cailean Swainson

Performance DatesBetrothal in a Monastery 2012

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

20 Jan, 19.15 21 Jan, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

26 Jan, 19.15 28 Jan, 19.15

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