Opera Scotland

Nabucco 2017Tayside Opera

Read more about the opera Nabucco

For several years, now, Tayside Opera has struggled to maintain anything like the standard of production that audiences became used to during its first decades. For whatever reason, during the current century there has been a noticeable problem arising from an ageing and shrinking membership. It is several seasons now since they were able to perform with a good-sized orchestra in a conventional theatre. Annual performances have continued to be given on a small scale, in halls or churches, in concert or semi-staged form, and with piano accompaniment. The results have been mixed, though there has always been something to enjoy, and the sheer enthusiasm of the principals was consoling.

On the basis of the final performance of this Nabucco, it looks as if the company, steered by its President, Peter Gackowski, may have turned a corner. Last year many people wondered how soon it would be before Tayside joined other noted companies of the past - Glasgow Grand being the obvious example - in oblivion. However this production seemed on an altogether higher plane than their recent achievements. The chorus seems to have doubled in size and the newcomers are all young, with excellent voices, able to project a uniformly impressive sound that is essential for a work like Nabucco.  The set was small-scale and the costumes simple, but there was a sense of style that has been missing of late.

The singing of the chorus was enthusiastic and enjoyable. The soloists were, inevitably, variable. One young voice stood out when it comes to having the power required for these Verdi pieces. Tenor Michael Doroszenko projected a fine sense of line as well as defining his words clearly. When in ensemble he was still able to sing sensitively to blend with the others. Barbara Scott, as Fenena, also gave a constantly satisfying account of the part, culminating in a sweet performance of her final aria.

The other parts are more substantial. Alister Allan and Russell Malcolm both sang well as Zaccaria and Nabucco. However neither quite has the Verdian heft for these roles that really do require some power throughout the range. They did show occasional signs of fatigue - hardly surprising given that they had sung the night before in a much bigger auditorium in St Andrews. Abigaille is a punishing role for any soprano, and Frances Taylor was not quite able to disguise the difficulties it presents. She managed the extremes of range, the high and low notes, but sometimes had  difficulty linking them. She compensated well by injecting appropriate venom in her acting and projection of words.

The pianist Robert Duncan was excellent, while Richard Johnston paced the whole show in an ideal way. There is, it seems, hope that for next year, when the company celebrates its fiftieth season, Tayside may be able to return to playing with an orchestra and in a theatre. It is certainly to be hoped that the great progress shown this year can be built on. Even in this format, they provide a valuable service across the region, with performances in Birnam, Brechin and St Andrews, as well as Dundee.

Performance Cast

Nabucco Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon

Russell Malcolm

Ismaele nephew of Zedekiah, King of Jerusalem

Michael Doroszenko

Zaccaria High Priest of the Hebrews

Alister Allan

Abigaille a slave, supposed elder daughter of Nabucco

Frances Taylor (May 19, 27)

Moira Docherty (May 20, 26)

Fenena daughter of Nebuchadnezzar

Barbara Scott

High Priest of Baal

Michael Turner

Abdallo an elderly officer in the King of Babylon's service

Andreas Ottenberg

Anna Zaccaria's sister

Susan Jenkin

Performance DatesNabucco 2017

Map List

Arts Centre, Birnam | Dunkeld

19 May, 19.30

Mechanics' Institute, Brechin | Brechin, Angus

20 May, 19.30

Holy Trinity Church, St Andrews | St Andrews

26 May, 19.30

Chaplaincy Centre, Dundee | Dundee

27 May, 19.30

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