Opera Scotland

La Rondone programme cover 2023

Opera North in Newcastle

Posted 24 Oct 2023

Opera North opened its Autumn visit to Newcastle's Theatre Royal on Tuesday, 31 October with its new production of Verdi's ever-welcome Falstaff. This presentation, which has been very favourably received, was repeated on Thursday, when the OpScot team met up for an indulgent weekend. 

The thoroughly enjoyable Falstaff performance was completely dominated by the fabulous orchestra under music director Garry Walker and an absolutely winning interpretation of the title role by company stalwart Henry Waddington - the portrayal unusually warm-hearted and genial. Richard Burkhard took on a major Verdi role as a highly sympathetic Ford, and it ws good to see Kate Royal return as Alice. 

This autumn season is focussed on green issues, with all three lots of sets and costumes recycled from stock, generally effective.  Herne's Oak was a fascinating jumble of antlers retrieved from the park at nearby Harewood.

The second work in this short season is still unaccountably a great rarity, Puccini's La Rondine.  This wonderful and much under-rated piece has never yet been performed in Edinburgh, though Opera North's first staging was taken to Aberdeen back in 2006 and the Conservatoire presented it beautifully in Glasgow in 2014.  La Rondine could be seen on Wednesday and Friday.  Once again it came across as an underrated piece - superb chorus and orchestra under Oliver Rundell, once Scottish Opera's chorus master.  The leading couple, Galina Averina and Sébastian Guèze, were unfamiliar but quite excellent, and it was good to meet up again with Elgan Llýr Thomas as Prunier. 

The third work on the tour, with a single performance on Saturday, was a complete novelty entitled The Masque of Might. An evening of superb music by Henry Purcell had been arranged by that great and most enterprising of directors, Sir David Pountney.  While some of it was familiar, neither of the most famous operas, Dido or King Arthur was pillaged. The plot was admittedly thin, with a strong environmental element, but it held together and sounded excellent. 

For this the superb conductor was Harry Bicket, now a regular at the Met and elsewhere, but remembered still from his excellent work on Scottish Opera-Go-Round's Gluck Orfeo all of thirty years ago.


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