Opera Scotland

Hermiston 1975Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Hermiston

The 1975 Edinburgh Festival had a promising programme, with four operas on display. Scottish Opera gave the premiere of Robin Orr's Hermiston, based on Robert Louis Stevenson's unfinished masterpiece. The Deutsche Oper from Berlin paid its second visit to Edinburgh with classic productions of Salome and Lulu. The Festival followed up its producttion of Don Giovanni, with Geraint Evans and Daniel Barenboim, which had been the centrepiece of the 1973 and 1974 programmes, with this staging by Evans himself, which would return in 1976. Like the Don Giovanni, it was recorded for posterity.

Even in its unfinished state, Weir of Hermiston is still regarded as one of the great works of Scottish literature. It seemed an excellent subject for an opera.

The librettist was one of the brightest young theatre talents in Scotland, Bill Bryden. Robin Orr composed leading roles for three of the most popular singers in the Scottish Opera "team" in Michael Langdon, Catherine Gayer and Patricia Kern. And a new arrival, the promising young American baritone, Lenus Carlson, was excellent as the doomed hero.

The role of the harsh hanging judge suited Langdon well, with much use of his cavernous lower register reminiscent of Claggart. The very difficult coloratura in Christina's mad scene was effective (even if it was difficult to imagine the role being attempted by anyone else). But, in spite of the fast-paced narrative, the piece was simply less dramatically effective than expected - perhaps if Orr and Bryden had been able to revise it the opera might have been revived.

Between the Edinburgh Festival opening and the four performances in the Theatre Royal subscription season, the piece was given four times on the autumn tour to Aldeburgh, Newcastle, Aberdeen and Leeds. It was in repertoire with Don Giovanni and Die Fledermaus (the latter only being seen in the three cities).

The first Theatre Royal subscription season (1975-76) contained ten operas in total, played in sequence. The gala Fledermaus was followed by short runs of Otello, Hermiston, Ariadne on Naxos, Così fan tutte, The Golden Cockerel, Die Fledermaus, A Midsummer Night's Dream, Don Giovanni, Madama Butterfly and Falstaff. The Otello had been seen regularly since 1963, the Falstaff only once before, in 1966. Fledermaus had been launched in Edinburgh during the summer, just before Hermiston - both were previously unseen in Glasgow. The only productions that were brand new were Ariadne and Rimsky-Korsakov's Golden Cockerel, unseen in Scotland for half a century, and only occasionally since then at Covent Garden. It proved to be an exotic delight.

Performance DatesHermiston 1975

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

27 Aug, 19.30 29 Aug, 19.30

Maltings, Snape | Aldeburgh

5 Sep, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

10 Sep, 19.30

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

17 Sep, 19.30

Grand Theatre, Leeds | Leeds

24 Sep, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

29 Oct, 19.15 1 Nov, 19.15 4 Nov, 19.15 6 Nov, 19.15

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