Opera Scotland

Aïda 1987Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Aïda

The 1987/88 season of Scottish Opera featured ten main stage productions. Six of these were new: Aïda, Lulu, The Pearl Fishers, Così fan tutte, La bohème and Candide. The four revivals were Seraglio, La vie Parisienne, Eugene Onegin (sung in Russian for the first time) and Death in Venice. The stylishly simple black, white and silver programme cover introduced for the season was highly attractive, but the idea was not repeated.

The company's first Aïda was a co-production with Brussels, and successfully got round the traditional expectation of grandeur. The concept was essentially a colonial environment near the time of composition - court ladies in high-Victorian costumes and the military uniform worn by Radamès consisting of scarlet coat, khaki jodhpurs and a solar topee on his head. The triumph scene was staged as a domestic entertainment, with the recent war and the trophies projected on a screen in the form of magic lantern slides to entertain the court. Simple, but very effective. Opera North, under Philip Prowse, had tried something similar, as regards period, a few years earlier. But of course there was always going to be a problem with the specifically Egyptian elements - the existence of slaves and Isis-worship in a Victorian context sat uneasily to say the least.

The opening night of the season also marked the start of John Mauceri's generally successful period in charge of musical affairs with the company. He generated a beautiful account of the score, the only concession to new scholarship being the introduction of some unusual speeds. In arguing that the relationship of tempi was of particular importance in this piece, Mauceri stuck scrupulously to metronome markings, which many enjoyed, gaining an unusually tight sense of the work's structure. Others found this control introduced an unwelcome element of the straitjacket. Any difficulties noticed at the beginning of the run quickly disappeared as the orchestra became more comfortable with their new conductor's Verdian style.

The cast was uneven. Janice Cairns made an excellent Aïda, always dramatically involved. Ambra Vespasiani, in her only British appearances, was an effective Amneris, even if her costumes were perhaps a shade too matronly. Her singing was beautiful, accurate and stylish, though it lacked the cutting edge traditionally expected from Italian mezzos in Verdi. Roderick Kennedy was an incisively dramatic Ramfis, and John Treleaven sang well as Radamès, though his dramatic involvement was limited. The main disappointment was the young Bulgarian baritone, simply not ready for a major Verdi role in a staging of this quality. But note, also, the debut as offstage Priestess of the company's future Brünnhilde.

 

Performance Cast

Ramfis High Priest

Roderick Kennedy

Radamès Captain of the Guard

John Treleaven

Amneris daughter of the King of Egypt

Ambra Vespasiani

Aïda an Ethiopian slave

Janice Cairns

King of Egypt

John Tranter

Messenger

Declan McCusker

Priestess

Elizabeth Byrne

Amonasro King of Ethiopia and father of Aïda

Ljubomir Videnov

Performance DatesAïda 1987

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

15 Sep, 19.15 19 Sep, 14.15 26 Sep, 19.15 1 Oct, 19.15 23 Oct, 19.15 26 Nov, 19.15 28 Nov, 19.15

Playhouse Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

27 Oct, 19.15 29 Oct, 19.15 31 Oct, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

3 Nov, 19.15 7 Nov, 19.15

Tyne Theatre | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

10 Nov, 19.15 14 Nov, 19.15 17 Nov, 19.15 19 Nov, 19.15 21 Nov, 19.15

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