Opera Scotland

Flight 2018Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Flight

The 2017/18 season of Scottish Opera opened at the Edinburgh International Festival with a new production of Greek, the modern classic by Mark-Anthony Turnage, which had its British premiere at the 1988 Festival. It re-appeared in Glasgow later on, making an even greater impact in the smaller Theatre Royal. The main season began with a welcome and overdue revival of Sir David McVicar's powerful 2008 production of La traviata. The New Year contains new productions of another successful recent piece, Flight (Jonathan Dove) as well as Ariadne auf Naxos and Eugene Onegin. The season ends with a novelty circus tent-style production of Pagliacci. As a follow-up to the four operatic rareties mounted as Sunday concerts in 2016/17, the new subjects are rare Russian operas - Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, Prokofiev's Fiery Angel and a Rachmaninov double bill - Aleko and Francesca da Rimini. The fourth of these concerts is a digest of Russian pieces performed by students from the National Opera Studio under the title From Russia With Love. There will also be the regular Highlights tour round the Highlands and Islands. this time in two phases, Autumn and Spring.

Jonathan Dove's comic opera was an instant success at Glyndebourne and on tour some twenty years ago and has since been performed perhaps more widely around the world than any other recent piece. So far, its only Scottish appearance was a decade ago, done by the students at the RSAMD, as the Conservatoire was then. This staging concept by Australian Stephen Barlow was a great success at Holland Park in 2015. Now adapted for a more conventional theatre it was an unqualified success. It is cheering to hear an audience laughing repeatedly at the comic sections. There is also plenty of pathos build in , usually when the characters do their brief solo turns - they are all three-dimensional, cleverly drawn by librettist and composer, and generally rather unhappy.

The most obvious apparent defect in the work is overcome with tremendous ease. The idea that an international airport could contain so few people is corrected by the simple means of flooding the stage with a team of silent extras as a flight is called. A few minutes later, having changed costumes and characters, they are back to check in for another flight. After that, with the premise accepted, we can enjoy the situations of the highlighted individuals.

The stage is dominated by the majestic character of the flight controller, very fond of her lovely airport, which would be perfect if only it wasn't constantly cluttered up by these dreadful people. The refugee hovers constantly, observing the passengers, and apparently awaiting the arrival of his brother. Only at the end do we learn why he doesn't arrive. These two figures, written for high coloratura soprano and countertenor do provide reminders of Britten's Oberon and Tytania. If anything Dove's writing for the voices is even more beautiful.

The other characters avoid the risk of becoming clichés. There is a couple hoping to re-ignite their lost love, a middle-aged woman desperately lonely, a diplomatic couple in emotional tatters attempting to combine new job opportunity with imminent arrival of a baby. Even the most obviously comic couple - some of the humour quite ribald -  the airline professionals, just about manage to reveal serious aspects, even if they seem a bit desperate. The writing for voices allows all these characters to make an impact and there are no weaknesses. Even the words are projected clearly.

The orchestral performance is superb, with Stuart Stratford's band revelling in Dove's juicy orchestration. Obvious highlights such as the plane's take-off and the storm are delivered with real punch. The designs, largely projections, all work well - adaptations of radar scanners and weather patterns all helping the atmosphere. In all this is a work that thoroughly deserves its success and repeats that here with consummate ease.

The two scheduled Edinburgh performances were badly affected by a few days of extreme weather. blizzards of snow from the east. Not only were airports closed but travel by road and rail was seriously disrupted from the Wednesday 29 February for the next four or five days. Travel on Thursday 1 March was pretty much impossible in the central belt and the first performance of Flight, in common with events all over the country, was cancelled. On the Saturday it was still not possible for the orchestra to travel from Glasgow, but it was announced that the performance would be given with piano.

Performance DatesFlight 2018

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Feb, 19.15 21 Feb, 19.15 24 Feb, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

1 Mar, 19.15 3 Mar, 19.15

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