Mumble Opera

Mumbling Scotland's Opera

Holidays!

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Team are taking their annual Holidays,

& will be back in full force on January 1st 2017

Except, of course, for Mumble Theatre, which we like to keep an eye on

La Traviata

Saint Cuthbert’s Church

25th August

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An Operatic story of true love and its implications for a beautiful young courtesan who is destined to be with a gentleman  deemed too low for the courtesan’s class. A celebration of the power of true love and the tragedy of human mortality. The opera in question, La Traviata, is the source material for the contemporary classic film, Moulin Rouge. Performed by the Opera Bohemia Ensemble, conducted by music director, Alistair Diggs, & sung in Italian the music beautifully brings the story to life…  the stringed instruments especially, taking the lead, a performance that was worthy of center-stage itself.
Saint Cuthbert’s is a choice venue for an Opera as powerful as this one. The church stands at the West End of Princess Street Gardens, ornate and gothic, with perfect acoustics. Our seats were quite aptly in the heavens.With subtitles projected onto a screen above the altar. to the words that were sung it made for a totally inclusive experience. The stage in the altar of Saint Cuthbert’s made everything perfectly audible, from the lush orchestral interpretation to the amazing vocals of each of the cast. The detailed staging by Director Doughlas Nairne, transformed the stage set for each of the chapters of this Opera – by hand, the stage crew of Opera Bohemia meticulously created the different scenes during the short pauses in front of the audience. Unique and entertaining in itself.
Catriona Clark, performing the lead role of Violeta, effortlessly graced us with what would at first seem almost supernatural in her ability to move through the scales. Terminally ill with consumption, even lying down on her death-bed, her song is splendidly sung. Violeta’s true love Alfredo, performed by Thomas Kinch, skillfully demonstrated the affections and emotions of a man devoted and besotted. From the initial kiss and embrace, to the separation and longing. The final reconciliation moving the audience to tears as Violeta finally departed her mortal coil.
Aaron McAuley plays the part of Giorgio Germont, Violeta’s disaproving and controlling Father, doing his best to divert his sick daughters intentions to the suitor he would prefer.  Each of the cast gave a sterling performance in bringing this Italian Love Story to life. A true lesson into the impermanent.reality of love and life itself,  in a challenging and powerful presentation of perfect opera.
Reviewer : Mark Divine Calvert.

Scenes From The End

Greenside @ Nicolson Sq (13:55)
Until the 27th August
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Today’s Mumble mission couldn’t have been more serendipitous, especially as I was escorted by my review companion of the day, the very beautiful Christine. There was even more beauty to come… the venue where we first encountered the one-woman opera, ‘Scenes From the End’ is an intimate affair and perfect for this masterpiece, whose.exploration of its subject matter that couldn’t be any more challenging. A study of the mortality of the Universe and Humanity, sung by the young soprano, Héloïse Werner. Simplicity is the nature of her performance as we were graced with the premier of this one Woman Opera. With a solitary chair and table as her only stage props. With choice quotations about the grieving process projected onto a black back drop.
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Both myself and Christine were transfixed from the word go. As the performance evolves, Ms Werner’s vocal expertese seduces her audience with sadness and passion at the same time. Even without the subject matter being known, her voice is enough to hold one in awe. Grief is a part of life that one really cannae get to grips with or understand until the experience is inevitably lived – and just like this solo show, it is one of the most personal of journeys. The performance triggered emotions in myself & my partner – we have both been grievers recently – and captivated as entirely at the same time. It didn’t take long for my own waterworks to start moving and tears were cascading down my face. (A good job that I wore waterproof mascarra)
The Quotations, voice and subtle acting combined to create a work of genuine, authentic power and moving beauty. This is a fringe show that one should make a day for, because to try and take anything else in for the 24 hours that follow would be impossible. Beautiful voices do make me cry, they always have done. But to see and hear the stages of grief presented in such a way is nothing less than remarkable. Such a sensitive subject embraced and transformed into something as gorgeous beautiful and as celebrated as creation it self.
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After the performance Christine and myself walked up over Salisbury Crags in silence, my own tears had dried, we were both in awe and had recognised a deeper healing of our individual journey through grief. Two Souls moved closer together as we brought our attention to the splendour of the moment. 5 Stars all round. Exceptional and Breathtaking. Dinnae forget to take some tissues.
Reviewer : Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert
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The Quotations
 
The Quotations
 
For nature, heartless, witless nature,
Will neither care nor know
A.E.Housman, from ‘Tell Me Not Here, It Needs Not Saying’ (1922)
*
The universe seems neither benign nor hostile,
merely indifferent to the concerns of such creatures as we.
Carl Sagan, from ‘Cosmos.10’ (2010)
*
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
This is the way the world ends
Not with a bang but with a whimper.
T.S.Eliot, from ‘The Hollow Men’ (1925)
*
Everyone can master a grief but he that has it.
William Shakespeare, from ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ (1599)
*
Time does not bring relief; You all have lied
Who told me time would ease me of my pain!
Edna St Vincent Millay, from ‘Time Does Not Bring Relief’ (1830)
*
The agonies, the mad midnight moments, must, in the course of nature die away. But what will follow? Just this apathy, this dead flatness?
C.S.Lewis, from ‘A Grief Observed’ (1925)

All The Best Reviews

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Rusalka

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

5 / 7 / 9 April

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

14 / 16 April

Peter Wedd as the prince and Anne Sophie Duprels as Rusalka. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit James Glossop. (3).JPG

Imagine the relief & euphoria when the Bay City Rollers arrived in 1975, giving the teenybops a chance to enjoy rock & roll music apart from the serious-minded, unsmiling rockers of the post-glam mid-seventies. In the same way, there is something so joyously & eternaly childlike about Rusalka, the crowning glory of Antonín Leopold Dvořák’s search for a definitive expression of the  Czech ‘anima’ for opera. Indeed, me & the missus have been chatting about taking the girls to an opera, but at 6 & 8 we felt it was maybe too soon. However, despite Rusalka being dressed up in the sonic & aesthetic garb of cultural maturity, it is still a children’s tale, which taps into the child still in us all. A perfect choice, then, for our bambino’s first opera.

A fantastic fable, Rusalka is a mermaid who falls in love with a prince – the perfect fairytale fare. Its librettist was the Czech poet, Jaroslav Kvapil, who while staying in Denmark in 1899 began to re-read the tales of Hans Christian Andersson, including the Little Mermaid. Of his lyric fairytale he produced, Hannah Nepil writes, ‘it is no surprise that Kvapil wrote his libretto for the rebuilt national theatre. He made a point of describing Ruslaka as a quintessentially Czech work in the tradition of Karel Jaromir Erben, a writer loved for his macabre, folk-like ballads. Indeed, the rhythm of Kvapil’s language conjures up the Czech bards’s, as does one of Rusalka’s main charaters, Vodnik, on whom Erben based one of most gruesome poems.’

I cannot praise highly enough how excellent was the stagecraft. I loved the simple shapes that dominate the visualities – the oval pool, the straight-lined trees, the circular moon, were so simple they were practically hypnotic. To this were added the monstrously brilliant internationally renowned talents of Sir Williard White, whose dread-locked water-goblin, Vodnik, was a wonder. ‘Poor Rusalka, caught up in this dazzling world,’ he mourns wistfully as his unsullied daughter gets caught up in the sticky webbing of human relations. “Souls sin,” he tells her, “But souls love,” she replies.

Rusalka herself, played by Anne Sophie Duprels, was a voluptously beautiful lead, while her Prince, peter Wedden was unfortunately a little, well, wooden. the rest of the chorus, cast were top notch however, while choreographer Lucy Berge’s all-singing, all-dancing nest-haired dryads buzzed about the stage like graceful gazelle, while Clare Presland’s kitchen boy was a class act.Yes, I must admit, Ruslaka was a completely riveting watch.

This production is full of clever little touches, such as Rusalka’s bloody legs after she’d had her tail hacked off, & the stagecraft is the real star of the show. Its been over half a century since Rusalka paid her first & only visit to Scotland (1964), which is a bit of a travesty really. Perhaps there is a certain snobbery about Czech opera, admittedly it is not as lyrical as the Italian, or musically stirring as the German, but a s a mystical sonic spectacular Rusalka trancends them all. Amidst it all, as well, we may hear the magnificent aria, the ‘Song to the Moon,’ which is nothing short of divine.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

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Libretto

Plot: 3 Lyricism: 3 Music: 3

Stagecraft

Set: 5 Costume: 4.png Lighting: 4.png

Performance

Singing: 3 Acting: 4.png Choreography: 5

The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Saturday 9th April

Woodside Hall,

Glasgow

Andrew McTaggart as Dr Caligari with Scottish Opera's Connect Company. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit Tim Morozzo.jpg

Scottish Opera is like a lovely silk glove, whose fingers reach into the very fabric of the national fibre, stroking our psyches into a fluffy state of mind, as from Dunvegan to Moffat we Scots go about our business in a much finer spirits for  a night at the opera. In the case of The Cabinet of Dr Cagliari, I found myself transported from the exterior high-rises of Glasgow’s West End down into the Woodside Halls & into a merry-go round of choral splendor, all played out on a sense-piquing chequerboard floor of jade & white

Scottish Opera’s ‘Connect Programme’ brings to & works with 14-21 year-olds, & boy do they do a good job. This year’s offering is a new opera, their third world premnier in 8 years, by librettist Allan Dunn & music by Karen Maclaver. Based on a silent film of 1920, The Cabinet of Dr Cagliari tells the story of a trip to an Edwardian fairground where a certain freakshow sonambulent, Cesare, awakes to announce that one of the visitors will die that night. His emergence from the cabinet, like a warbling Frankentsein’s monster, is the highlight of the whole piece, singing his heinous prophecy with a startling soprano. She did, of course, & the rest of the story unfolds from there, ending up in Gartloch asylum, from whence the plot begins to twist & turns like a slippery saragosan eel.

Daniel Keating Roberts as Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit Tim Morozzo. (4).jpg

Director, conductor, boss-man Chris Gray should be proud of himself here. This senior lecturer at the university of Aberdeen is a widely sought trainer of young & amateur operas, choirs, companies & orchestras, & I can see why. At a terse seventy minutes, his Cabinet is a short, snappy splurge of operatic energy, though delivered by singers of varying quality. Some of these were unfortunately drowned  out by the orchestra, who, by the way, transcended their years with flawless pernicity. The star role, however, was Andrew McTaggart’s Dr Gallagher, & boy does he pack a good of lungs. Daniel Keating Roberts meanwhile, as Cesare, delivered a sweet soprano, while the excellent, cohesive chorus was a joy to watch.

Daniel Keating Roberts as Cesare in The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit Tim Morozzo. (3).jpg

The Cabinet is a entertaining & slightly traumatic piece, which utilises slick lighting & modern sound-effects to create a carnival of disbelief. Although at times I did feel I was still watching the silent movie version of the 1920s, with a pianist tinkling along, for the vocals, as I have said before, were too muffl’d to make out. Still, the Cabinet is a fun-loving, retro-oozing, dynamic one-act piece & with a few tweaks could go on to be a classic.

Libretto : 4.png Stagecraft : 4.png Performance: 3

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

Carmen

Playhouse , Edinburgh

Sat 12th March 2016

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This is opera that I haven’t experienced before. But then I hadn’t encountered Ellen Kent who juggles 6 Nation-wide operas at once. Opera and circus acts would not seem like a happy combination but this artistic and most definitely boundary challenging theatre does a have a place out-with Vegas for entertaining a broader audience.Think you’re not an opera fan? So did I.

The first act of Carmen is a myriad of vibrant contrasting colour as we are introduced to the cast and in particular Don Jose, the Spanish corporal (Vitalii Liskovetskyi ) Micaela, the peasant girl from his home town, ( Maria Tonina) and Carmen or Carmencita to her friends, the gypsy amoral temptress (Liza Kadelnik) – full of lust & desire that sets Don Jose’s pulse racing from the moment he sets eyes on her exiting the cigarette factory where she works.

Setting the scene outside the cigarette factory, Director Ellen Kent uses a rescue donkey plodding by – not what you would expect to see in central Edinburgh on a Saturday night but boy were the audience thrilled. Kent’s mother ran an animal rescue centre in Southern Spain in the swinging sixties. So, it seems, a non conventional upbringing has its rewards and according to well known artist and poster man for this production Ralph Steadman, Ellen is, ‘Operatic Impresario- Scene shifter Extraordinaire….Behind the scenes Ellen Kent strives to make her Productions acceptable and attractive to ALL in Society.’

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Bizet’s last and arguably best work never gave him the fame and fortune he had strived for : within three months of its Paris premier Bizet died aged only 36. The addictive arias coupled with Kent’s 24 years of experience which keeps pushing her sense of theatrical spectacle to beyond its limits with her sheer joy of opulence and her skill at surprising the audience when they least expect it makes for great value entertainment. If I were to liken her to a film director I would chose Sally Potter of Orlando fame, not just for her use of the most sumptuous cloth of which there are clear links but because of what she brings to the table in terms of women’s power, sexuality and independence.

Of course Carmen is well known for her alluring resourcefulness through Prosper Merimee’s scandalous novel of 1845 where little was left to the imagination, but it is the the little touches that are added to modernise this old tale and really engage the audience gaining their empathy that makes Kent’s production so unique and exciting. Carmen’s character has a fluidity and believability that was less evident in Don Jose. His wonderful voice was undermined by stilted, almost robotic movements that were more mechanical than human.

Act 2 takes us to Lilias Pastia’s where you will delight in the busy bar, the costumes and the daft drunken behaviours all explained in English subtitles above which really help to make it inclusive to all. The final acts are where the action gets heated and I was transfixed by the bullfighter’s Escamillo ((Luri Gisca) – who was by far my favorite character – his incredibly powerful Baritone plees for Carmen’s affections had me rooting for him.

The inevitable tragedy that concludes this, the most entertaining of Carmen’s that I have witnessed, is not trivialised ( only Kent can do this) by the final crowd-thrilling prance with Caspian, the persil-white wonder horse from movies Robin Hood and Warhorse and his more than capable rider. If you want a night of passion, beautiful costume-changes, dramatic sets, bare-footed femme fatales, superb heart-wrenching as well as uplifting arias, all alongside some of the most passionate conducting – then this is the one to see.

Reviewer : Clare Crines

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Libretto

Plot: 4.png Lyricism: 4.png Music: 5

Stagecraft

Set: 5 Costume: 5 Lighting: 4.png

Performance

Singing: 5 Acting: 2.png  Choreography: 3

Tosca

Edinburgh Playhouse

March 11th

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What a joy it is to see Ellen Kent returning to Edinburgh with her annual touring festival of opera, two of which the Mumble was happy to catch. For me, it was last Friday’s Tosca, a three-act marvel by Puccini. With a brimful of torture, murder & rape, all served up by Puccini’s fluffy musicality, & garnished with his wonderful sense of humour, Tosca is a delight. Following on from his masterpiece, La Boheme, its origins come during that opera’s composition, when he took a night off to visit the theatre in Florence with his wife, Elvira. The play he saw was La Tosca by the French playwright, Victorien Sardou, & the rest, they say, is operatic history.

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Premiered in Rome in 1900, Tosca tells the story of an actress in the same city, who is experiencing the rather brutal twists of fate while elsewhere in Italy, at the Battle of Marengo, Napoleon is winning a great victory. Of Puccini’s treatment of Sardou’s tale, Duncan Hadfield writes that Tosca ‘might be called a late Romantic opera,: in fact, Naturalism & Romanticism merge in both dramatic plotting; &, of course, in the music. In the later stages of composition Puccini went to considerable touch to establish very exact senses of local colour. In 1897 he made a trip to Rome to listen to the sound of the church bells from the heights of Castello Sant’Angelo, & he also enlisted the assistance of a priest to check certain musicoecclisiastical details. Equally, in 1899, Puccini paid a visit to Sardo himself who had encouraged the composer all along the way; & was apparently gracious enough to say the libretto was an improvement on his own play.’

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Tosca begins playfully, introducing our heroine & her lover, the painter Cavaradossi, while he works on a painting. In perfectly Puccinian scenes, the paintings image of Magdelane reminds her too much of a local beauty, & she insists the woman’s eye are repainted – jealous eyes indeed, & absolutely hilarious. From here things get juicier, with the Chief of Police, Baron Scarpia, scheming his way into the heart – & panties – of the Roman diva. Love, desire, beauty, death, civil persecution – it seems Italy has & will never change! The finale, by the way, is breathtaking, a volcanic explosion to the tension-builds that had been gathering throughout the previous three acts.

Tosca is a lovely libretto, with soul-touching lines such as; ‘God will forgive me, he will see that I am weeping,’ & ‘Tosca, you make me forget God.’ With Tosca, Romantic-era Italy has been recreated with a professional ease by the company, a great effort for a stage that must be thrust up & dragged down again in a day before the next opera (in this Carmen on Saturday). Performance wise, Tosca is a dream, full of Eastern European talent, of whom the leading soprano, Ukranian Alyona Kistenyova, had the most perfect vocality – I could almost feel the sonic vibrations touch my tingling skin as she sang. I also loved the baddie, Vladimir Dragos, of Chisinau, whose dominant evil streaks shone like ochre-dripping from the stage. All singers were top notch & delightful to watch, while the orchestra matched Puccini’s vision note for note. A lovely treat for such talent to reach these most northerly climes.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

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Libretto

Plot: 3 Lyricism: 4.png Music: 4.png

Stagecraft

Set: 4.png Costume: 4.png Lighting: 4.png

Performance

Singing: 4.png Acting: 4.png Choreography: 3

 

Ariodante

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

16th & 18th & 20th Feb

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh

24th & 27th Feb

Jennifer France as Dalinda and Sarah Tynan as Ginevra in Ariodante. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit James Glossop..JPG

 Libretto: 4.png Stagecraft: 3 Performance: 4.png

There is something just so ‘marvellous’ about the Handelian opera, especially for we Britishers who, spurning the Itialianate prediliction for endless recitivas, prefer our opera to be aria-heavy. So let us welcome Scottish Opera’s latest offering, Ariodante, the second part of the Ariosto trilogy, marking 400 years since the publication of the poem ‘Orlando Furioso‘ (1516) from which the tales are drawn. Indeed, Ariodante is brought to us by the same creative team which  gave us 2001’s Orlando: director Harry Fehr, designer Yannis Thavoris & choreographer Kally Lloyd-Jones. Their production sees two singers make their debut with ScotOp; Sarah Tynan & Xavier Sabata as Duke Polinesso, while Caitlin Hulcup makes a welcome returns in the lead after her sensational Orfeo in last year’s Orfeo ed Euridice. She is very realistic as the desperate lover, Ariodante, her boyish beauty & effeminate charm blending together most excellently well, & served up on the platter of her delicately brilliant voice. This androgenous opera needs three stunning-voiced women to pull off these days – the castrato’s ‘voice of choice’ must be replaced by the mezza-soprano, of which Hulcup’s was a perfect solution. She is an  mesmerising lead who enters her part with what appears to be a  well-reaserched, well-nuanced vigour.

Caitlin Hulcup as Ariodante. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit James Glossop. (6).JPG

Caitlin Hulcup as Ariodante

According to  ScotOp’s director, Alex Reedijk, Ariosto is ‘a high-stakes game of love, betrayal & deceit,’ & boy is it beautiful stuff. An opera seria in three acts by George Frideric Handel, there is a cloud of melancholy which hangs over everything; a dark mass in GMinor (the same key Mozart used for the Night of the Soul) alleviated occasionally by the brightest little moments of pure joy. The plot has Ariosto due to wed his princess, but unfortunately, in the tradition of the best of pantomime villains, a scheming Duke Polinesso gets involved & messes everything up.Of course he too is in love with Ginevra, who responds top his advances with a curt, ‘a harpy would not be as loathesome as you, sir.’ Xavier is a sensation as the Duke, & for me was the brooding, plotting, chauntingly beautiful star of the show. Robert Thicknesse writes; ‘one effect of Handel’s editing is that the villain Polinesso remains eniogmatic – a very modern evil that exists for its own enjoyment. Polinesso is a black magician, an illusionist, a devilish character who is also there, paradoxically, to show these innocents what the world can do., the night-horrors they have never conceived, blinded by the sun of their endless days – & to offer them the chance of becoming better.’

Enter Dalinda, a servant girl, played by ScotOp’s emerging artist 2015-16, Jennifer France. The poor lass is completely enfatuated with Polinesso, who keeps her onside with the occasional wooing aria & visceral slippy finger between her thighs right upon the stage (my grandmother wouldn’t have approved). Polinesso’s plan involves Dolinda dressing up as the Princess & convincing Ariosto she is having an affair with the Duke. ‘What power love has – I can deny him nothing,’ sighs Dolinda – ‘the die is cast,‘ surmises the Duke.  This nice slice of Shakespearean cross-dressing sends Ariosto off into a exiled depression which is only saved by a repenten Dolinda confessing all to him & the subsequent reconciliation & timely death of the evil duke.

Xavier Sabata as Polinesso in Ariodante. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit James Glossop. (2).JPG

Xavier Sabata as Duke Polinesso

Considered as one of Handel’s best librettos – he souped up Antonio Salvi’s original (Ginevra) by dropping the long-winded recitivas, chucking in a few dances from the Covent Garden troupe & shuffling the scenes about, all in accordance with the growing Georgian taste for opera. This was Handel at the heart of one of his most creative periods, the ‘Terpsichorean Interlude’ (1734-35) which saw the the creation of his greatest operas, including Alcina, written in tandem with Ariodnate. Three centuries later, Harry Fehr has also felt inspired to tinker with the latter’s libretto, reinstating some of Salvi’s abandoned scenes for dramatic effect, supporetd by music director, Derek Clark, who told the Mumble; ‘The harmonies themselves had to make ‘grammatical sense’ based on the rules Handel used – so, for example, no sudden unexpected discords – and, although I imagined the recititives with appoggiaturas (slight pitch changes which singers naturally add to their recitative lines to help them emphasise certain words, usually at the end of phrases), I had to keep remembering that Handel didn’t write them, as a rule, but left them to the singers’ discretion, so that the new recits would look as well as (hopefully) sound the same as the original ones.’

The first two acts of Ariosto are wonderful – full of lust & intrigue that sets the pulse bubbling – but the final act is more like a rapid procession of plot devices to reach the final duet where Ariosto & Ginevra are reunited. I put this down to Ariosto’s lack of the usual baroque sub-plots, which is a double-edged sword really as, although a linear simplicity is handy with opera, reneging on ‘substance’ often leads to such rollicking gallops to the finale as found in Ariodante. But what a finale – this last aria (of 31) simply made me want to leap out of my chair – all those extra notes, those 2 octave runs, OMG – which I did alongside a few happy strangers. I really do enjoy Handel’s instant ability to create harpsichord-embosomed emotion – as soon as his aria’s begin you know which mood-station he’s about to take you to. He is so real, an immediate presence that completely engages the & stimulates the viewer. No nodding off in the middle of a twenty-five minute Wagnerian lament here, kids! I also enjoy the ABA style of his arias, with the first section stating an exposition of whats been happening in the recitivas. Its a bit like the Terza Rima of Dante, a compositional structur which helps to create a promenading concert in the mind.

Lucy Ireland and Vince Virr (dancers) in Ariodante. Scottish Opera 2016. Credit James Glossop..JPG

First performed at the Covent Garden, 8th January 1735, the orchestra is small : where Wagner utilised 100 musicians, & Pucini 85, Handel only needed 30-35; resulting in a more intimate & personal experience, as opposed to the pomp of Continental bombast. This, of course, was perfectly captured by the Scottish Opera lot, & their performance was apractically flawless. the only weakness, I think, was Ginevra – played a little too softly, softly in the this post-feministic age – I think I wanted more emotion from Tynan. All in all, a fine performance of a fine opera. In Ariodante, all the singers need to be able to sing –  its damned complicated stuff which requires a tremendous flexibilty of the voice. Add to this the constantly evolving dramatic inflections & we are given a thrilling opera that is tough to pull off. Scottish Opera, I think, have done a fantastic job however, & I hope by surmounting this particular challenge they shall be ready to tackle an even tougher proposition in the future, such as Mozart’s ‘The Abduction from the Seraglio.’ The stagecraft  was at times a little too basic – I’ve seen those fake minature orange trees before, for example (outside the Aldi in Burnley) – though the WW1-era costume work was top-notch.  All in all a worthy effort.

Reviewer : Damo Bullen

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Libretto

Plot: 4.png Lyricism: 4.png Music: 4.png

Stagecraft

Set: 2.png Costume: 4.png Lighting: 4.png

Performance

Singing: 4.png Acting: 3 Choreography: 4.png

 

Carmen

Eden Court – Empire Theatre

Inverness

27 Oct 2015

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Scottish Opera and director Benjamin Davis have brought about a revival of the 1999 co production by Patrice Caurier and Moshe Leiser which is sung in French and has English Super titles Even though Habanera is one of my favourite opera songs, I’ve never actually been to the Opera, so I was quite excited and unsure what to expect. Set in Seville, the story is about a fiery, free spirited gypsy woman, Carmen (Justina Gringyte) who works in a cigarette factory, and quite amusingly in the first act everyone is puffing away, even a group of cheeky children as they mimic the soldiers marching and flicking their butts.

Noah StewartAll the soldiers and male characters vie for Carmen’s attention, but she falls for Don Jose (Noah Stewart), possibly because he is the only one who pays her no attention. Even he cannot resist her charms and foregoes his mothers wish for him to marry his childhood sweetheart Micaëla (Nadine Livingston) and deserts the army to follow her and her smuggler friends into the hills. However with his jealousy and rages and her autonomous flirting nature , this passionate affair seems ill fated from the start. When Don Jose heads back to his village with Micaëla to see his dying mother, Carmen falls in love with the charismatic Escamillio the Toreador (Roland Wood) and the story comes to a dramatic end when Don Jose catches up with her at the bullfighting ring.

Except for the final act, this production had quite a paired back set, with muted colours and abstract backdrops, so it is left to Bizet’s music to give a sense of the rich colours of Spain. I’m not sure if the Super titles where a help or a hindrance, I often found my attention diverted from the stage to read the text, but they helped to explain the narrative. Justina Gringyte plays the sultry seductress well and has an amazing voice which seemed to grow in confidence throughout. Noah Stewart was equally impressive in voice, but sometimes lacking in passion during the more dramatic scenes. Nadine Livingston as the innocent  Micaëla had a lovely tone to her voice and some of the choruses, especially at the bullfight were simply fantastic. David Parry gave great direction to the orchestra who played seamlessly for the whole performance. For me this was perfect introduction to the Opera, and a very enjoyable experience.

Reviewer : Zoe Gwynne

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