Scottish Opera's 2016/17 mainstage season opened with a revival of Sir Thomas Allen's excellent production of The Marriage of Figaro, first mounted in 2010. The new stagings include Pelléas et Mélisande, which the company has not mounted in forty years. Duke Bluebeard's Castle appears in tandem with a new piece The 8th Door. A new staging of La bohème is followed by the company's first Philip Glass production, his adaptation of Kafka's The Trial. The medium scale work, touring smaller venues in the autumn, was a new treatment of The Elixir of Love.
For several seasons, Scottish Opera presented a series of concerts on a Sunday afternoon, using the company's orchestra and chorus. Usually the programmes were symphonic, though there was later a move towards the more appropriate format of employing a star singer in a series of extracts and arias, as well as non-operatic songs.
For the season 2016-17, the company has adopted a far more enterprising policy - the use of one-off concert performances to introduce to Scottish audiences works that are scarcely known in these parts. The season kicked off with the second of Mascagni's operas to be produced, L'amico Fritz, a piece that could hardly be more of a contrast to its hot-blooded and tragic predecessor, Cavalleria Rusticana. The series continued with Debussy's early cantata L'enfant prodigue, which was eventually staged shortly before World War One.
Rossini is represented by his delightful early farce The Silken Ladder. This is the only one of the four the company has tackled previously, though it was a long time ago, and it will also get a second performance in Perth. The final work is a real rarity, Puccini's first opera, Le villi, which has not been heard in Scotland before.
Rossini's Silken Ladder is one of the best of a series of five delightful short farces he composed at the start of his career. Its overture always seems to have been popular, but the whole work is a charming little comedy that repays attention in its own right. Its only previous appearance with Scottish Opera, thirty-odd years ago, was billed as a medium-scale tour, though it was pretty much what Rossini would have recognized from the little Venice theatre of its premiere. That staging was an early opportunity for young Graham Vick to direct something interesting.
This cast is highly promising. David Parry has an excellent record for resurrecting unknown operas of the bel canto era, both in the theatre and on disc. Jennifer France has already shown her quality as a singing actress in Handel and Mozart with Scottish Opera. Luciano Botelho made an excellent impression in Anna Bolena at the Perth Festival and has since had some major appearances to his credit, including Covent Garden. Nicholas Lester this season sang the lead in The Trial by Philip Glass for Scottish Opera and has appeared in several major roles with English Touring Opera, including, most recently, the title role in Don Giovanni. Germano is a role that interestingly combines the comic and the serious. The Australian bass-baritone Joshua Bloom is an unknown quantity here, but has already worked extensively with Australian companies and at the New York Met.
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