Opera Scotland

Jacobin 1995Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Jacobin

Scottish Opera's season for 1995-96 contained some new productions that were highly memorable, though most were not seen again and none survived for long. After the Edinburgh Festival, where the new staging of The Jacobin opened, there was a very strongly cast small-scale, piano-accompanied tour of La bohème. The main subscription season contained The Jacobin and new stagings of Don Giovanni, La belle Hélène and Hansel and Gretel. A revival of La traviata was followed by new productions of Alceste and Turandot.

The Jacobin is a wonderful opera which, if it had been by Rossini or Donizetti, would perhaps have been classified as semi-seria - the basic plot is serious, but there is a happy ending. There is also a joyous sub-plot which eventually takes over.

The 1980 production by Welsh National Opera, directed by Adrian Slack, and idiomatically conducted by Albert Rosen, was perhaps undervalued at the time. It was never revived, but it was beautifully performed and got the dramatic balance about right, though some critics found it a bit dull. The Welsh company was, at the time, led by Brian McMaster and Richard Armstrong, so fifteen years later, the idea of Scottish Opera staging the work at the Edinburgh Festival must have seemed an attractive opportunity to correct those small faults that had marred the 1980 version.

Musically, it was every bit as good as the Cardiff version - not a weakness in the singing or playing. However the production was another matter. The concept introduced the idea that the Bohemian region contained silver mines, which were not the pleasantest source of employment. They do not feature in the libretto, and had a generally oppressive effect throughout the performance which made it difficult for the opera to make its full effect. The set was a silvery-grey cavern, awkward to light effectively, and it constricted the stage.  Donald Maxwell's corrupt policeman, a semi-comic figure, was presented as some kind of Prussian tyrant. The serious element of the plot was perhaps overdone, and the feelgood folksy elements were rather lost as a result. The production was not revived.

The singing was generally excellent, and all the soloists acted as well as the staging allowed. The emotional heart of the piece was well shown by Peter Sidhom in the title role, Rita Cullis as his wife, and Stafford Dean as his much-deceived father. The juvenile couple, Richard Coxon and Claire Rutter, also did well, with Alasdair Elliott in winning form as Benda, a part beautifully written, and a gift for a good character tenor. Robert Hayward was also excellent as the villain.

Performance Cast

Bohuš of Harasov, son of Count Vilém

Peter Sidhom

Julie wife of Bohuš

Rita Cullis (Exc Nov 16)

Virginia Kerr (Nov 16)

Filip the Burgrave (a police official)

Donald Maxwell

Benda teacher, choirmaster and composer

Alasdair Elliott

Terinka Benda's daughter

Claire Rutter

Jiří a young villager

Richard Coxon

Adolf of Harasov, the Count's nephew

Robert Hayward

Count Vilém of Harasov, a retired general

Stafford Dean

Lotinka the Count's housekeeper

Ann Hetherington

Performance DatesJacobin 1995

Map List

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

14 Aug, 19.30 16 Aug, 19.30 23 Nov, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

2 Sep, 19.15 8 Sep, 19.15 28 Sep, 19.15 30 Sep, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

8 Nov, 19.15 16 Nov, 19.15

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