Opera Scotland

Alceste 1974Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Alcestis

Fifteen years after the Royal Opera from Stockholm had made a first Edinburgh Festival appearance, they returned with a memorable pair of early 20th century masterpieces. Of the four operas brought to Edinburgh by the Swedes in 1974, Jenůfa and Elektra were performed in a conventional, but thrilling, way. The recent work, The Vision of Thérèse, was performed in the round at STV's Gateway studios. A little-known Handel pastorale, Il pastor fido, completed their offering. Scottish Opera ventured into the supposedly rarified world of Gluck for the first time, with an under-rated staging of Alceste. The Festival's own production of Don Giovanni was revived from the previous year.

The opera schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 19 Aug: Mon Alceste; Tue -; Wed Don Giovanni; Thu Alceste; Fri Don Giovanni; Sat Alceste.

Second week, commencing 26 Aug: Mon Don Giovanni; Tue Alceste; Wed -; Thu Elektra; Fri -; Sat Jenůfa.

Third week, commencing Sun 1 Sep: Sun Elektra; Mon Vision of Thérèse; Tue Il pastor fido & Vision of Thérèse; Wed Jenůfa; Thu Il pastor fido; Fri Elektra; Sat Jenůfa.

This much anticipated production was planned around the projected performance of Alceste by Janet Baker. Sadly, during musical rehearsals she decided to withdraw. She did eventually sing this challenging role during the final season of her operatic career, in 1981, when Sir Charles Mackerras conducted John Copley’s production at Covent Garden, also with Robert Tear singing Admète.

The Scottish production therefore became the occasion of the British debut of Julia Varady, who turned out to be a wonderfully subtle singing actress. For Scottish Opera's first visit to Aldeburgh, Ann Murray, in her professional debut, took over the part with astonishing success. Neither soprano appears to have sung this demanding role subsequently.

The rest of the cast, especially Robert Tear and Peter van der Bilt, also shone in a staging by Anthony Besch which emphasised the dark, almost primeval, antiquity of the story. The contribution of Scottish Ballet was also of high quality, though some did think Peter Darrell’s choreography added little by way of atmosphere. It certainly emphasised a primitive tribalism that was perhaps not immediately apparent in the music.

Performance DatesAlceste 1974

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

19 Aug, 19.30 22 Aug, 19.30 24 Aug, 19.30 27 Aug, 19.30

Maltings, Snape | Aldeburgh

30 Aug, 19.30 1 Sep, 19.30

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