Opera Scotland

Fennimore and Gerda 1983Opera Theatre of St Louis

Read more about the opera Fennimore and Gerda

The operatic highlight of the 1983 Edinburgh Festival was undoubtedly the first visit by Opera Theatre of St Louis, with a new American work, The Postman Always Rings Twice (Paulus) and a rare British one, Fennimore and Gerda (Delius). There was also the fourth by the Hamburg company, their first since 1968. The Magic Flute production, at the vast Playhouse, was very different from its predecessors, and very entertaining. However a far more important event occurred at the more intimate King's Theatre, with the British premiere of two operas by Zemlinsky, both derived from Oscar Wilde, and presented as a double-bill. While the first piece, a three-hander called A Florentine Tragedy, worked well, it was overshadowed by the second piece. Zemlinsky's title, Der Zwerg (The Dwarf) was replaced by a restoration of Wilde's original, Der Geburtstag der Infantin (The Birthday of the Infanta). It proved to be a superb piece, well worthy of revival. Scottish Opera's staging of Britten's Death in Venice, derived from the novella by Thomas Mann, also fitted in well to the Festival's Viennese theme. The Usher Hall also contained two semi-operatic concerts, with Claudio Abbado on unfamiliar Wagnerian territory (Act 2 of Lohengrin), and Alexander Gibson and the local team tackling Schoenberg's huge Gurrelieder for the first time. Another Schoenberg rarity, the monodrama Erwartung, was also conducted by Abbado.

Delius is remarkably neglected in Scotland. Even his best known orchestral music is hardly ever played. His operas are almost completely unknown, so it was refreshing to have an American company bring such a rarity to Edinburgh. Frank Corsaro's staging was just about ideal - short tableau-like scenes divided by musical interludes which were illustrated with projections (also produced by the designer Ronald Chase). Perhaps it was all a little bit too pretty, but that provided an effective contrast to the new Paulus work with which it alternated. The stand out performance was that of Niels by the young baritone Stephen Dickson, already an excellent Glyndebourne Papageno. He died soon afterwards. Christopher Keene coaxed lovely sounds from the Scottish Chamber Orchestra.

Performance DatesFennimore and Gerda 1983

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Kings Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

8 Sep, 19.30 10 Sep, 19.30

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