Opera Scotland

Hedda Gabler 1985Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Hedda Gabler

Scottish Opera's subscription season 1984-85 consisted of nine operas, including six new productions, one of which was a world premiere. They began with Cavalli's Orion, which received its UK premiere at the Edinburgh Festival before joining the season's repertoire. The other works given were Fidelio (revival), Rigoletto (revival), Capriccio, Bartered Bride (revival), Barbiere di Siviglia, Don Giovanni, Orlando and Hedda Gabler (Edward Harper world premiere).

The BBC made operatic history by commissioning a batch of four operas to be premiered by Scottish Opera annually from 1974 to 1977. Sadly, in spite of the essential success of the entire project, this did not stimulate any other sponsors to crawl out of the woodwork. It was therefore very encouraging that the BBC should repeat the process a decade later. In this case, however, only one opera was involved, and instead of an initial wide-ranging tour with ten performances guaranteed, on this occasion only five performances were given, and all those in Glasgow. Still, the seventies had seen Scottish Opera at its peak, and the eighties were largely a time of retrenchment.

Like one of the earlier composers, Edward Harper was not actually Scottish-born, but unlike three of them, he had spent almost his entire professional and artistic life in Scotland, and was justifiably considered to be a local. His choice of subject was one of the best-known plays by the Norwegian master, and must have been familiar to any audience members who took a sensible interest in drama performance in the major cities. Strangely, it seems to be less popular now than it was in those far off days.

Harper's first opera, a short one-acter based on episodes from Thomas Hardy's Far from the Madding Crowd, and called Fanny Robin, had been premiered with success at Edinburgh University, and had then been inserted into the middle of what Scottish Opera had earlier planned as a double bill involving Dame Janet Baker in performances of Dido and Aeneas and Savitri. That it not only survived but thrived in such circumstances must explain why the company were keen to encourage a follow-up from him.

By and large, it worked well. Harper's abbreviation of the translation by Michael Meyer was tactfully done, and he introduced a scene of his own invention, in Mdlle Danielle's salon. This offered the opportunity for some light relief before the tragedy took over, supplied some attractive dance music, and Pat Hay a final cameo role before her premature retirement from the stage. The title role was effectively performed by Kathryn Harries, and Robert Dean, Rodney Macann and Anne Mason also responded well to the opportunities they were presented with. Graham Vick's production was relatively straightforward, if anything making it too close to the play from which it was derived.

Performance DatesHedda Gabler 1985

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Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

5 Jun, 19.15 8 Jun, 14.15 11 Jun, 19.15 13 Jun, 19.15 15 Jun, 19.15

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