Opera Scotland

Undertaker 1969Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Undertaker

This three-week visit by the opera company from Florence brought a repertoire of largely unfamiliar work, with the popular Verdi and Puccini presented with good casts that justified their inclusion. Two full-length operas were brought, Donizetti's Maria Stuarda as well as Rigoletto. There were two double bills. Gianni Schicchi was paired with a rare Rossini piece, Il signor Bruschino. There were also two little known twentieth century operas, with composers still alive. These were by Malipiero (Sette Canzoni) and Dallapiccola (Il prigioniero).

Undaunted, Scottish Opera mounted a late night entertainment on the Fringe consisting of a double bill of two modern works lasting barely a half-hour each. In 1968, Scottish Opera had given its first newly-commissioned work, in Full Circle, by Robin Orr. This was a brief piece of verismo, teamed with further performances of the previous year's staging of The Soldier's Tale by Stravinsky. The following spring it was played with two dance works, performed by Scottish Theatre Ballet. For this last run, a companion-piece was commissioned, this time a comedy. The Undertaker was of similar length to Full Circle, and also employed an octet of players, though playing a different combination of instruments. Its young composer had no previous experience of composing opera, and also wrote his own libretto.

It turned out to be a farcical and bawdy comedy, much enjoyed by some, though others found it lightweight, indeed frivolous, and in rather poor taste. It was filmed by the sponsors, STV (after all, the Gateway Theatre was their Edinburgh studio) and broadcast. It was quite an enjoyable little piece, without being in any way special, and showed elements of promise sadly unfulfilled, given that Purser did not pursue opera composition. Perhaps it is time to have another look at it and the Orr work.

The performance was very well done, The two juveniles Nan Christie and Frederick Bateman made an excellent impression, while the comedy was in the safe hands of Bill McCue and Pat Hay.

 

Scottish Opera's Eighth Season - 1969

The spring season contained one new production, The Trojans, with further performances of the recent Gondoliers and Full Circle, with revivals of Così fan tutte and Albert Herring.  The latter was taken on a three-stop German tour following up its visit to Florence in 1968.  A further new work was introduced at the Festival (on the Fringe) and the company's first full-scale Rossini at Christmas.

Western Theatre Ballet, had relocated to Glasgow as Scottish Theatre Ballet and so were available to collaborate on The Trojans and provide two  short works to partner Full Circle.

The seven operas performed during the year were:  Mozart (Così fan tutte);  Rossini (Cinderella);  Berlioz (The Trojans);  Sullivan (The Gondoliers); Britten (Albert Herring);  Orr (Full Circle);  and Purser (The Undertaker). 

The schedule was as follows:

Perth, w/c 31 March: Mon 31 np;  Tue 1 Apr np; Wed 2 np;  Thu 3 np;  Fri 4 np;  Sat 5 Così fan tutte.

Perth, w/c 7 April:  Mon 7 Così fan tutte; Tue 8 np; Wed 9 mat Full Circle & Ballet;  Wed 9 e Full Circle & Ballet;  Thu 10 Così fan tutte ;  Fri 11 Albert Herring;  Sat 12 Così fan tutte.

Glasgow, w/c 29 Apr:  Mon 28 np; Tue 29 np;  Wed 30 np;  Thu 1 May np;  Fri 2 np;  Sat 3 Trojans.

Glasgow, w/c 5 May:  Mon 5 Full Circle & Ballet;  Tue 6 np;  Wed 7 Così fan tutte; Thu 8 m Full Circle & Ballet;  Thu 8 e Full Circle & Ballet;  Fri 9 Così fan tutte;  Sat 10 Trojans.

Glasgow: w/c 12 May:  Mon 12 np;  Tue 13 Così fan tutte;  Wed 14 Trojans;  Thu 15 m Gondoliers;  Thu 15 e Gondoliers;  Fri 16 Albert Herring;  Sat 17 m Gondoliers;  Sat 17 e Gondoliers.

Edinburgh w/c 19 May:  Mon 19 Trojans;  Tue 20 Così fan tutte;  Wed 21 m Full Circle & Ballet;  Wed 21 e Full Circle & Ballet;  Thu 22 m Gondoliers;  Thu 22 e Gondoliers;  Fri 23 Così fan tutte;  Sat 24 Trojans.

Week comm 26/05:  Hanover Mon 26 Albert Herring;  Wed 28 Dortmund Albert Herring;  Fri 30 Augsburg Albert Herring.

Aberdeen, w/c 2 June:  Mon 2 np;  Tue 3 Così fan tutte;  Wed 4 Gondoliers;  Thu 5 Albert Herring;  Fri 6 Gondoliers;  Sat 7 Così fan tutte.

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe saw 10 performances, late-night at the Gateway Theatre in Leith Walk, of a double bill of short works.  The serious and well-regarded Full Circle was now paired with a new piece by John Purser - The Undertaker, a black comedy.

Edinburgh, w/c 1 Sep:  Mon 1;  Tue 2;  Wed 3;  Thu 4;  Fri 5;  Sat 6.

Edinburgh, w/c 8 Sep:  Mon 8;  Tue 9;  Wed 10;  Thu 11,

The company followed the previous year's precedent by mounting a pre-Christmas season at the Edinburgh King's.  There was a new production of Rossini's Cenerentola.  Also, as Edinburgh had not seen it in the spring, there were two further performances of Albert Herring, as well as more ballet, this time allowed complete evenings.

Edinburgh, w/c 1 December:  Mon 1 np; Tue 2 np; Wed 3 np; Thu 4 np; Fri 5 Cinderella;  Sat 6 Albert Herring.

Edinburgh, w/c 8 December:  Mon 8 Cinderella; Tue 9 np;  Wed 10 Cinderella;  Thu 11 np;  Fri 12 Cinderella;  Sat 13 Albert Herring.

The small-scale, piano-accompanied Opera For All tour continued.  Early in the year, two long-running productions, Madam Butterfly and Don Giovanni, were joined by Don Pasquale, replacing The Barber of Seville.  In the Autumn they were in turn retired, and Don Pasquale was joined by two new productions, Martha and La traviata.

Performance DatesUndertaker 1969

Map List

Gateway Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

1 Sep, 22.15 2 Sep, 22.15 3 Sep, 22.15 4 Sep, 22.15 5 Sep, 22.15 6 Sep, 22.15 8 Sep, 22.15 9 Sep, 22.15 10 Sep, 22.15 11 Sep, 22.15

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