Opera Scotland



Posted 9 Jun 2011

A full performance of Rigoletto came relatively late to Scotland, though much of the music had become familiar through concerts and the sale of sheet music. The very first performance in Scotland was that of Florence Lancia's Grand English Opera company, who performed it at the Colosseum (shortly to be renamed the Theatre Royal) Cowcaddens, on December 11, 1867.

The next performance - and in Italian - was presented by the touring Italian Opera from the Theatre Royal in London, who performed it on February 12 1869 at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. It was advertised as the 'Favourite Opera'. Santley sang Rigoletto, Vanzini Gilda and Bulterini the Duke. The conductor was Arditi. All were well known figures of the day. The company went on to present it in Edinburgh on March 5th, where the 'Scotsman' critic acknowledged it as the first ever performance in the city, suggesting it ought to have been better attended. This tour was being managed by the young Mr J H Mapleson, who has left us entertaining (if unreliable) memoirs of a life as an operatic impresario.

Since these first early performances, Rigoletto has been presented in Scotland a great number of times.

Carl Rosa, the company that toured Scotland from 1874 onwards performing opera in English, offered it on their 1882 visit, performing it in Edinburgh and Aberdeen. Rigoletto was given again in 1906 in Glasgow, in 1908 in Glasgow and Edinburgh, and they toured it again from time to time. In fact, the Carl Rosa company alone performed it over seventy times throughout Scotland. One of their last tours in 1955 featured favourite Scottish Opera tenor Charles Craig as the Duke. Another Scottish Opera regular, Peter Glossop, sang Rigoletto in Scotland as a member of the Sadler's Wells Company before Scottish Opera was founded. Sadler's Wells took the opera to Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen over the years.

The Edinburgh International Festival has mounted the work three times; firstly in 1959 when the Stockholm Opera brought Nicolai Gedda as the Duke. In 1969, Renata Scotto sang Gilda with the Florence company; and then in 1987, the great Finnish baritone Jorma Hynninen sang the title role with his own company from Helsinki.

Scottish Opera have staged it twice prior to the 2011 production. Firstly in 1979, Alexander Gibson conducted David Alden's staging with Neil Shicoff as the Duke and Norma Burrowes as Gilda. The second production, by Kenny Ireland in 1997, had Claire Rutter as Gilda and was conducted by Richard Armstrong.


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