Opera Scotland

Susanna's Secret 2019Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Segreto di Susanna

Susanna's Secret is a delightfully frivolous comedy which made an enjoyable follow-up to the first half, which consisted of Mascagni's unknown Zanetto, a gentle romance. Both works were composed around the turn of the nineteenth century. If Zanetto had a touch of autumnal bitter-sweet, the Wolf-Ferrari was completely different from the off, with the most familiar sequence being the fizzingly energetic and melodious overture.

There is plenty of attractive music built in - Susanna herself playing a beguiling melody on the piano offstage as Gil begins to think the worst. The setting was as for Zanetto - no scenery, as such, just a raised playing area with a few props that separated the band and conductor behind in the chancel from the audience in the nave. While there is lots of lively music and action, the very speed of delivery meant that the warm church acoustic did muddy the tone a little, compared to the earlier piece.

However this clearly had no affect on the enjoyment of the audience, who seemed to be wondering why Wolf-Ferrari is so little known. The well-placed surtitle screens were an essential element given the rapidity of the Italian dialogue.

This cast was pretty much ideal.  Richard Burkhard and Clare Presland, playing with conviction, were both in this summer's highly-praised London production of Susanna's Secret at Opera Holland Park, so this semi-staged performance was undoubtedly well-honed. Burkhard has a warmly-produced baritone that was just as effective here as in his recent Papagenos. Clare Presland succeeded in avoiding any sense of shrillness, which might have been a hazard. She was always sweet-toned and sympathetic, in a part where the audience's goodwill might have been forfeited. Piran Legg, as the traditional comic servant, managed to steal his scenes effectively - as that tradition requires.

Incidentally, at OHP the second opera paired with Susanna's Secret was Tchaikovsky's Iolanta, a work which has already featured in Scottish Opera's one-off concert performances a couple of seasons ago.

 

Scottish Opera's 2019/20 Season

The season opened at the Edinburgh International Festival with the European premiere of Breaking the Waves by Missy Mazzoli. The autumn performances got under way with a visit to the Lammermuir Festival on 20 September with a single performance in concert of an unusual double bill - Mascagni's Zanetto and Wolf-Ferrari's Susanna's Secret. The Glasgow season opens with a welcome revival of Tosca. There is a Sunday afternoon concert of Iris, another rare work by Mascagni. In the New Year there are new productions of Nixon in China by John Adams as well as Britten's Midsummer Night's Dream. and Sullivan's Gondoliers. Further concerts include a pairing of Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana with Leoncavallo's Zingari. There are also concert performances of a late Sullivan piece, Utopia, Limited, as well as the usual Opera Highlights tour of the Highlands and Islands.

Scottish Opera has brought out single performances of a number of rare operas in the last few seasons.  These have generally been performed in Glasgow.  On this occasion, they were doing one presentation for the Lammermuir Festival at St Mary's Parish Church, Haddington - a beautiful mediaeval collegiate building, magnificently restored nearly half a century ago.

Scottish Opera mounted Susanna's Secret briefly back some forty years ago on a small scale. STV thought enough of it to do a full studio production for broadcast, but it was never staged with the full orchestra in the theatre.

In the early years of Scottish Opera, it seems that Alexander Gibson considered producing a full-length Wolf-Ferrari comedy derived from Goldoni, The Four Rustics, usually translated as The School for Fathers. This used to be a popular work with Sadler's Wells after the war, but it hasn't been seen for a long time. Perhaps it is time to dust it down.

Performance Cast

Count Gil aged thirty

Richard Burkhard

Countess Susanna Gil's wife, aged twenty

Clare Presland

Sante a manservant, aged fifty

Piran Legg

Performance DatesSusanna's Secret 2019

Map List

St Mary's Church, Haddington | Haddington

20 Sep, 19.30

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