Opera Scotland

Undertaker 1969Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Undertaker

The operatic element of the Edinburgh Festival was given over entirely to a three-week visit by the Florence Opera, with a roster of stars including Tito Gobbi, Renata Scotto and Magda Olivero.

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 years 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.

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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