Opera Scotland

Elegy for Young Lovers 1970Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Elegy for Young Lovers

Alexander Gibson had conducted several of Henze's concert works in Glasgow and Edinburgh, but never one of his operas.  Elegy for Young Lovers had not been played anywhere in Britain since its Glyndebourne performances of 1961, and none of Henze's operas had been performed in Scotland at all.  Around the same time Scottish Opera was performing The Rake's Progress, also with an acerbic libretto by Auden and Kallman.

Ralph Koltai joined the project at a relatively late stage, after the withdrawal of the announced designer.  His mountain made of perspex plates linked on a scaffolding framework made a fascinating background to the skeletal representation of the early 20th century period inn where most of the action occurs.  While visually effective,  it was reputed to be quite difficult for the singers (Toni and Elisabeth) to climb on, though they concealed it well.

The cast was ideal, led by John Shirley-Quirk as the monstrous egomaniac Mittenhofer, in a wonderfu;;y sarcastic role originally created by Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau.  Catherine Gayer was extremely effective as the pathetic long-term resident widow, unleashing her stratospheric roulades with apparent ease.  The Czech mezzo Sona Cervena was also riveting as the poet's besotted secretary and sponsor - and she was alternating on the other evenings in the Fiery Angel cast, as she was based in Frankfurt at the time.  The drily witty libretto was beautifully projected.


Operas at the Edinburgh Festival - 1970

1970 saw a very successful mix of operas at the Festival. The Czechs from Prague's National Theatre, returning after the success of their 1964 visit, once more brought five productions. There was again a British premiere, The Excursions of Mr Brouček.  When ENO gave a London staging a few years later, they decided that 'Adventures' was a more user-friendly English title, and that has stuck. The others were the popular Bartered Bride, Dalibor (repeated from 1964), and two works familiar in London, but new to Scotland - The Cunning Little Vixen and The Makropulos Case. or Affair as it was billed here. The two other Festival operas were also great rarities. Proceedings opened with the Frankfurt Opera, who brought their controversial staging of Prokofiev's Fiery Angel. The director and designer were the Czech pair responsible for Dalibor (and the 1964 Rusalka). Scottish Opera's excellent contribution was just as enterprising - Henze's acerbic Elegy for Young Lovers, directed by the composer himself.

In summary, the operas were:  Smetana (Bartered Bride Dalibor);   Janáček (Adventures of Mr Brouček,  Cunning Little Vixen Makropulos Case);  Prokofiev (Fiery Angel);  Henze (Elegy for Young Lovers).

The performance schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 24 Aug: Mon Fiery Angel; Tue Elegy for Young Lovers; Wed Fiery Angel; Thu Elegy for Young Lovers; Fri -; Sat Elegy for Young Lovers.

Second week, commencing 31 Aug: Mon Bartered Bride; Tue Dalibor; Wed Cunning Little Vixen; Thu Makropulos Case; Fri Bartered Bride; Sat Excursions of Mr Brouček.

Third week, commencing 7 Sep: Mon Dalibor; Tue Makropulos Case; Wed Excursions of Mr Brouček; Thu Cunning Little Vixen; Fri Bartered Bride; Sat Dalibor.

Performance DatesElegy for Young Lovers 1970

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

25 Aug, 19.30 27 Aug, 19.30 29 Aug, 19.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

16 Sep, 19.30

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

26 Sep, 19.30

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