Opera Scotland

Solomon 2018Scottish Chamber Orchestra

Read more about the opera Solomon

In recent seasons the SCO and its excellent chorus, meticulously trained by Gregory Batsleer, have steadily been working their way through the great oratorios of Handel.

This presentation of Solomon proved well worth the wait. There can be little doubt that the best-known section from Solomon is the 'Symfony' that opens the third act - universally known as The Arrival of the Queen of Sheba. However there is much more superb music here, and it was good to hear it. For most of the decades since 1749 the act containing the episode of the two harlots was either removed altogether or heavily edited, rather limiting the monarch's opportunities to reveal his wisdom. This was a much fuller account.

The performance in Edinburgh started with an immediate impact, as the chorus opened the first act in celebrating the completion of the temple and Solomon's marriage to Pharaoh's daughter. This opening chorus was really impressive, delivered with superb attack and every syllable clear. Peter Dijkstra is renowned as a choral conductor, and it was the huge variety of the choruses that was brought out through the evening.

The first act ended in tranquillity with a lovely nightingale chorus complete with flutes, while later we had more warlike sounds - trumpets and drums were used surprisingly sparingly in this piece, usually considered to be quite grand. That warhorse 'Arrival' opening the third act came as a surprise because it did not have the half-expected tub-thumping celebratory air. It was almost gentle, taken at a pace where the two oboes could be expressive rather than just negotiate the notes - a lovely fresh sequence.

The title role is set for alto voice, and here we had an unfamiliar countertenor in Maarten Engeltjes. His sound was almost that of a traditional choral singer - a beautifully schooled instrument, with clear, liquid tone and absolutely clear diction. The tenor, Zadok, was taken by Joshua Ellicott, who coped with ease with the fiendish roulades that filled his part. His airs seemed of less melodic interest, until his final one, which was memorable. Ashley Riches' stirring Levite got things off to a fine start and was notably well-projected.

The four soprano roles were allocated to two excellent singers. Elizabeth Watts gave a limpid account of the Queen's music at the end of the first act. 'With thee th'unsheltered moor I tread' was quite lovely. In the second act she offered a complete contrast as the vampish, deceitful Second Harlot, claiming another's baby as her own (though the psychology of this character does seem odd). Anna Dennis offered a beautiful account of the more humane First Harlot, full of pathos. In the final act her benevolent Queen of Sheba, on an early state visit, also had several moments of pure lyricism.

There are still plenty of these little-heard but wonderful works for the SCO and their impressive chorus to let us hear. Roll on the next one!

Performance DatesSolomon 2018

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

26 Apr, 19.30

City Halls, Glasgow | Glasgow

27 Apr, 19.30

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