Opera Scotland

Renard 1969Music Theatre Ensemble

Read more about the opera Renard

The 1969 Edinburgh Festival's main operatic event was the visit by the Teatro Comunale of Florence, who occupied the King's Theatre for the full three weeks. They played four programmes, involving six separate operas, the composers being Rossini, Donizetti, Verdi, Puccini, Malipiero and Dallapiccola.

Scottish Opera, who had performed at the 1967 and 1968 Festivals, and would return every year for some time into the future, here took a break, and moved to the Fringe. They staged the premiere of John Purser's comic chamber opera The Undertaker at the Gateway Theatre on Leith Walk, in a double-bill that included further performances of Robin Orr's Full Circle, first heard the previous year.

An additional contribution to the International Festival came in the form of several late night shows by the newly-established Music Theatre Ensemble. This mouth-watering programme, presented just once, began with an almost unknown, but fascinating, cantata by Monteverdi. Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda was followed by two works of Luciano Berio, seen at the time as very avant-garde - Visage and Sequenza III for voice. The wonderful Cathy Berberian was on hand to sing the latter piece, composed by her husband for her particular talents.

The final item was Stravinsky's Renard. This was played by the London Sinfonietta under David Atherton. The singers were tenors Philip Langridge and Alezander Oliver, plus basses Michael Rippon and Joseph Rouleau. The choreographer was David Drew, working with four dancers - Wayne Sleep, already brilliant, with three older masters - Jane Landon, Donald Britton and Alexander Grant.

There is no director identified, just David Drew as Choreographer. The concept involved the four singers delivering their texts in concert form, while it was acted out by 'A group of strolling players'. Atherton and the London Sinfonietta revived Renard for a tour of rare Stravinsky works at the end of 1974. Joseph Rouleau returned to the piece.

The concept of the Monteverdi production involved two mimes to portray the combatants, with the lion's share of the declamation falling to Philip Langridge, still relatively unknown. The unusual combination of musicians (no original instruments yet) consisted of three violas along with one cello and one double bass.

The Ensemble was clearly a hotbed of young talent. Its repetiteur was none other than a young  Mark Elder, while David Pountney is listed as stage manager. The director and designer for the Monteverdi, John Cox and Bernard Culshaw, also both went on to long and successful careers.

Performance DatesRenard 1969

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Freemasons' Hall | Edinburgh

29 Aug, 22.30

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