Opera Scotland

Telephone 1984Washington Opera

Read more about the opera Telephone

The 1984 Edinburgh Festival was the first under the guidance of theatre director Frank Dunlop. Many examples of his work had been seen at previous festivals, going back to the sixties. After the previous year's superbly adventurous Viennese programming, it remained to be seen how he would achieve the challenging balancing act faced by every director when the various elements of opera, dance, classical concerts and drama need to be offset.

The chunky programme book containing details of every event - an idea repeated from 1983, but not to be continued thereafter - reveals the difficulty in the operatic programme. The central event was scheduled to be a second visit by Welsh National Opera. The two operas were to be a recent successful UK premiere production of Greek Passion by Martinů, conducted by Charles Mackerras, and Parsifal to be led by tha great Wagnerian Sir Reginald Goodall. In the event, Goodall was too ill to attend, and was to be replaced by his assistant. The Festival bizarrely pulled the plug on the entire visit, at very short notice, leaving a gaping hole in the schedule, annoying those who had wanted to see both operas. The reaction of the various Welsh personnel can only be imagined.

What remained was rather thin. Scottish Opera followed its previous success with L'Egisto by importing a staging of Cavalli's L'Orione from Santa Fe. The Washington opera brought a double bill of early Menotti works, The Telephone and The Medium. In those impoverished circumstances, a concert performance of Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and his wife Julia Varady assumed much greater importance. Fortunately there were several excellent choral works on show - the Rossini Stabat Mater, Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, Delius Mass of Life, Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky and Mozart Coronation Mass

It  was a perhaps surprising feature of the Edinburgh Festival's opera programming over the years that it had ignored the most commercially successful operatic composer of that era. The neglect seemed even stranger when the Italian-American Gian Carlo Menotti had bought an impressive stately home in East Lothian and now lived in Scotland for part of the year.

The Telephone, as the composer intended, acted as an introduction to his longer work, The Medium. Given that the Festival had never presented any Menotti opera before, this may have seemed a risk. However the four performances quickly sold out. The Washington Opera guaranteed authenticity by getting the composer and librettist, now aged 72, to direct the show as well.

Performance Cast


Sheryl Woods


Wayne Turnage

Performance DatesTelephone 1984

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

12 Aug, 19.30 13 Aug, 19.30 14 Aug, 19.30 16 Aug, 19.30

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