Opera Scotland

Opera Highlights 2018Scottish Opera

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Scottish Opera have been producing the Opera Highlights tours for so long now that it is surprising how fresh they seem year after year. Yet there is still scope for changes to be introduced and the young director appointed usually succeeds in finding a theme to unify the whole. This year's show is every bit as enjoyable as before.

The tour kicked off with four singers and a pianist, this time joined by an actor, journeying to 17 venues the length and breadth of Scotland, from Wick in the north to Dumfries in the south, as well as the Inner and Outer Hebrides. Opening night on 20 September was in Giffnock before heading to Ayr, Drumnadrochit, Wick, Forres, Ullapool, Stornoway, Portree, Lanark, Helensburgh, Dundee, Inverurie, Laurencekirk, Perth (the new Joan Knight Studio), Dumfries, Musselburgh and St Andrews (a Saturday matinee). 

Opera Highlights always features an operatic selection from much-loved composers, but also provides pieces by lesser-known composers - usually making us wonder quite why they are unfamiliar. Scottish Opera’s Head of Music Derek Clark, as ever, compiled this interesting blend. The operatic extracts were linked by new piano  compositions by Scottish Opera Composer in Residence Samuel Bordoli, who was recently nominated in the ‘One to Watch’ category at the Sunday Herald Culture Awards. Indeed it was his Overture - a delightful pot-pourri - that set the tone. Beginning with a snatch of the Tristan prelude which returned from time to time, it included lightweight treatments of more Wagner (Meistersinger as well as Ride of the Valkyries. There were lots of other sly references, including Donizetti (Don Pasquale), Richard Rodgers (Slaughter on 10th Avenue) and John Williams (Jaws!). Great fun, and stylishly delivered by Jonathan Swinard. Later he provided a very un-Schubertian take on 'To Music' for two voices.

Hs was joined by Scottish Opera Emerging Artist soprano Sofia Troncoso, who will sing the role of Papagena in the Company’s production of The Magic Flute next year, and let us have a preview; mezzo soprano Sarah Champion; tenor Richard Pinkstone and baritone Dawid Kimberg. The actor Hannah Birkin was also on stage throughout, usually restricted to mime, but fitting neatly into the concept of director Daisy Evens. This was a gently imposed contrivance, based on the idea of having excerpts drawn from Spotify and Google.

The design was minimal - a couple of boxes to stand on, two illiuminated arches, and a desk with lap top. All the colour was provided by the costumes, which were two-piece suits in pastel tones. The soprano Sofia Troncoso was in an ivory yellow number, mezzo Sarah Champion in blue, Dawid Kimberg in green, with Richard Pinkstone in - shocking pink. At what was the eleventh performance in Dundee it all ran like a well-oiled machine, with the performers thoroughly enjoying themselves and the audience lapping it up.

The earliest music on display was by Handel, with Sarah Champion giving a fluently dramatic account of Sesto's vengeance aria from Julius Caesar. There were also three Mozart items spread through the first half - the girls' opening duet from Così, Don Giovanni's one brief aria and an extended piece from The Magic Flute.

There was a very successful strand of bel canto, beginning with the highly familiar 'Quanto è bella', sweetly delivered by Richard Pinkstone. Less familar late Donizetti, and very welcome, was the duet from La Favorite. Sofia Troncoso gave a beautifully limpid account of Juliet's entrance aria from Capuleti (and had earlier dazzled with Gounod's equivalent Waltz Song). The great nocturnal trio from Rossini's Count Ory, one of his loveliest inventions, was also nicely done.

The second Gounod excerpt was from Faust, but enterprisingly, Siébel's delightful little number, beautifully projected. British operas were represented by a little known tenor solo from Hugh the Drover, excellently projected, and the creepy Tarquinius solo from The Rape of Lucretia.

The highlight of the final operetta sequence was the quartet from Countess Maritza - Kálmán really should be standard repertoire. Perhaps it was the piano, but it really did have more than a touch of Scott Joplin ragtime, but with that slight Hungarian twist. There was also a charming encore, with the tenor leading this versatile quartet in an arrangement of 'Yesterday'.

The complete programme was:

Mozart: 'Ah guarda sorella' Così fan tutte (ST; SC).

Donizetti: 'Quanto è bella' L'elisir d'amore (RP).

Mozart: 'Fin ch'an del vino' Don Giovanni (DK).

Beethoven: 'Jetzt, Schätzen' Fidelio (ST; RP).

Handel: 'Svegliatevi nel core' Giulio Cesare (SC).

Donizetti: 'Ainsi donc on raconte' La Favorite (SC; DK).

Gounod: 'Je veux vivre' Roméo et Juliette (ST).

Mozart: 'Papagena, Papagena! and 'Pa, pa' The Magic Flute (ST; DK).

Interval.

Bordoli: 'To Music' ST; RP).

Gounod: 'Faites-lui mes aveux Faust (SC).

Vaughan Williams: Song of the Road Hugh the Drover (RP).

Bellini: 'Eccomi in lieta vesta....Oh, quante volte' I Capuleti e i Montecchi (ST).

Britten: 'Within this frail crucible of light' The Rape of Lucretia (DK).

Rossini: 'No one can see' Count Ory (ST; SC; RP).

Sullivan: 'When a wooer goes a-wooing' The Yeomen of the Guard (quartet).

J Strauss: 'Come with me to the dance' Die Fledermaus (RP; DK).

Kálmán: 'Let's go to Varashdin' Countess Maritza (arr quartet).

Performance DatesOpera Highlights 2018

Map List

Eastwood Park Theatre | Giffnock, Glasgow

20 Sep, 19.30

Gaiety Theatre, Ayr | Ayr

22 Sep, 19.30

Craigmonie Centre | Drumnadrochit, Inverness-shire

25 Sep, 19.30

Wick High School | Wick, Caithness

27 Sep, 19.30

Town Hall, Forres | Forres

30 Sep, 19.30

Macphail Theatre | Ullapool

2 Oct, 19.30

An Lanntair | Stornoway, Lewis

4 Oct, 19.30

Aros Centre, Portree | Portree, Isle of Skye

6 Oct, 19.30

Memorial Hall, Lanark | Lanark

9 Oct, 19.30

Victoria Halls, Helensburgh | Helensburgh

11 Oct, 19.30

Gardyne Theatre | Dundee

13 Oct, 19.30

Town Hall, Inverurie | Inverurie

16 Oct, 19.30

Mearns Academy | Laurencekirk

18 Oct, 19.30

Perth Theatre | Perth

20 Oct, 19.45

Theatre Royal, Dumfries | Dumfries

23 Oct, 19.30

Brunton Theatre | Musselburgh, East Lothian

25 Oct, 19.30

Byre Theatre | St Andrews

27 Oct, 15.00

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