Opera Scotland

Orlando 1985Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Orlando

Scottish Opera's subscription season 1984-85 consisted of nine operas, including six new productions, one of which was a world premiere. They began with Cavalli's Orion, which received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Festival before joining the season's repertoire. The other works given were Fidelio (revival), Rigoletto (revival), Capriccio, Bartered Bride (revival), Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Orlando and Hedda Gabler (Edward Harper world premiere).

By 1985, the persistent absence of any opera by Handel from Scottish Opera's repertoire was a noticeable eccentricity. Fortunately this enjoyably theatrical staging of Orlando was quite successful, and the composer has featured more frequently since, with stagings of Giulio Cesare (1992), Semele (2005) and Tamerlano (2006), as well as concert performances of Samson (1998). Additional works now follow regularly. His works also appear at the Edinburgh Festival with far greater frequency, either in staged or concert form. However no single work, or staging, has yet become accepted into the repertoire in Scotland.

James Bowman had been a frequent visitor to Scotland in performances of A Midsummer Night's Dream, but he was also an expert at singing the old castrato roles of baroque opera, and gave a riveting performance of the mad scene. Eiddwen Harrhy was recognised as an expert Handel performer, and had sung leading roles with Handel Opera Society and Welsh National (with whom she also sang Asteria in Tamerlano at the 1982 Festival). Lillian Watson had a long career singing the light lyric soprano repertoire, working at Covent Garden for over twenty-five years. In the second run of performances that autumn, the role of Dorinda was taken by Rosa Mannion, who went on to record the part with William Christie and Les Arts Florissants.

Richard Hickox managed to fit many visits to Scotland into his hyperactive career, but he usually conducted the SNO, both in the central belt and on tour. Orlando was the first of two productions he did with Scottish Opera, and Handel was one of his early specialities. Everything just seemed to flow naturally. Christopher Fettes was known as a specialist in French theatre of the baroque period, so opera was a new departure for him, and not one he pursued subsequently. This is a pity, because this staging, in attractive, almost neo-classical designs, and beautifully lit, showed a lively ability to interpret the obscurities of this particular plot, and was perhaps under-appreciated at the time.

Performance Cast

Orlando a knight in the service of Charlemagne

James Bowman

Angelica Queen of Cathay

Eiddwen Harrhy

Medoro an African Prince

Timothy Wilson

Dorinda a shepherdess

Lillian Watson (May)

Rosa Mannion (Nov, Dec)

Zoroastro a magician

Stephen Varcoe

Performance DatesOrlando 1985

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

8 May, 19.15 11 May, 19.15 14 May, 19.15 16 May, 19.15 18 May, 19.15 9 Nov, 19.15

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

23 May, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

21 Nov, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Nov, 19.30

Apollo Theatre | Oxford

11 Dec, 19.30

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