Opera Scotland

Rigoletto 1997Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Rigoletto

The 1997-98 season for Scottish Opera started with the brilliant idea of another look at the original 1912 concept of Ariadne auf Naxos. That version started with the performance of an abbreviated text of Molière's comedy Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme. This was seen at an early Edinburgh Festival in 1950, conducted by Sir Thomas Beecham, but had not been seen in Scotland since. The new production, which played at the 1997 Edinburgh Festival, was a co-production with Nottingham Playhouse. The conventional revision, with prologue, followed as part of the main season.

That season started with a long Opera-Go-Round tour of The Barber of Seville. This was followed by eight main stage productions: Norma, Rigoletto, Peter Grimes, Tosca, Così fan tutte, Ariadne auf Naxos, The Queen of Spades and La traviata. In addition there were concert performances of Handel's Samson and three performances of a double bill of Param Vir's Snatched by the Gods and Broken Strings.

David Alden's successful staging having been laid to rest, Scottish Opera chose a distinguished Scottish actor and theatre director (most recently Artistic Director of the Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh) to mount the next attempt. The advantage of this lay in the detailed handling of individual performances, where believable characters were created. But there were disadvantages - his direction of the important choruses was unimaginative, and he created unnecessary difficulties for the singers, as when the Duke sang his aria in Act 2 from centre stage then had to go into the wings, climb up and emerge on to a balcony at the back for his cabaletta, so just when the musical and dramatic excitement should increase, the poor tenor had either to force his voice or remain inaudible.

Richard Armstrong is an experienced and expert Verdian, who produced a highly dramatic account of the wonderful score. The main reason for seeing the production was to encounter the beautifully acted first attempt at the role of Gilda by Claire Rutter. It is rare to find this part sung by a soprano with such a full and lustrous voice - fabulous bel canto technique in "Caro nome", while having plenty of power for the Act II Finale and the storm in Act III. The young Macedonian baritone Boris Trajanov was to prove his worth later in the season in The Queen of Spades, but as Rigoletto he seemed miscast. He looked tall and rangy, and the combination of hump and limp was simply unconvincing.

In all the performance was one to listen to rather than to watch. In an evening short on bright ideas, one novelty was for the Duchess to send in one of her ladies instead of a page to be shocked by the goings-on - perhaps this idea can be used again in future.

Performance DatesRigoletto 1997

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

30 Sep, 19.15 4 Oct, 19.15 21 Oct, 19.15 23 Oct, 19.15 29 Oct, 19.15 1 Nov, 19.15

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

16 Oct, 19.15 18 Oct, 19.15 5 Nov, 19.15 7 Nov, 19.15

Alhambra Theatre, Bradford | Bradford

12 Nov, 19.15 14 Nov, 19.15

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