Opera Scotland

Return of Ulysses 2013Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Read more about the opera Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria

Since the great revival and appreciation of Monteverdi took off some eighty-odd years ago, Ulisse has perhaps been neglected, certainly the least popular out of the three full length masterworks. It lacks the instant attraction of Orfeo's dance sequences, as well as the cynicism about human nature that has made Poppea such a success with modern audiences. Ulisse is a profoundly serious work featuring creatures of flesh and blood. While the emotional heart is the reunion of Ulysses with first his son, then his wife, the villains who try to prevent this are rarely entirely villainous, and even provide moments of humour. The cast is lengthy, with equally believable characterization of peasants, servants, aristocrats and gods.

The RCS's Opera Department last year enjoyed great success with Poppea , a work they had tackled a couple of times before. Ulisse is more intractable stuff, and it was a brave decision to move on to it, with results that were a complete vindication of that policy.  The cast took full advantage of the intimate space of the Alexander Gibson Opera Studio to project a fascinating and absorbing range of characters, beautifully voiced.

This began right from the prologue with the taunting of a frail human by a group of minor gods. The distinctions at court were well projected, with the desolation of long-suffering Penelope contrasted with the flirtatious behaviouir of the palace staff. The three suitors, appropriately garbed in hunting pink, were nicely differentiated, not just vocally (counter-tenor, tenor and bass). A highlight was the interplay of three completely different tenor voices, with the meeting of Telemaco and his unknown father, in the company of the grizzled shepherd Eumete. The main source of comic relief, fortunately not overdone, came from another excellent, well-schooled tenor, as the glutton Iro, who commits suicide rather than face starvation when his meal-ticket is removed.

The bevy of senior gods also had important roles, as they toyed with these examples of hapless humanity. Jove, yet another strong tenor, was joined by a confidently voiced late replacement as his spouse. The role of Minerva, the hand guiding the reunion of the mortals, was beautifully sung and subtly acted. As Neptune, cause of most of Ulisse's earlier difficulties, another promising bass sounded startlingly like the cavernous-voiced Stafford Dean of old.

This lovely performance led inexorably through an evening of great concentration, to the splendid final duet as Penelope finally recognizes her long-lost husband.

The edition, by Clifford Bartlett, restored several sequences often cut - including an exuberant trio for over-confident sailors (played by the three hapless suitors). The instrumental accompaniment was beautifully delivered by a small band - pairs of violins, violas, harpsichords, and theorbos, with baroque guitar, cello and organ. The playing was immaculate and beautifully paced. The staging was minimalist - hardly anything of a set, and generally modern dress, nothing intrusive or overdone.

In all, this event was a great success, even outdoing last year's Poppea - to the point where Ulisse almost seems the more satisfying piece.

Performance Cast

Humana Fragiltà Human Frailty

Svetlina Stoyanova

Tempo Time

Arshak Kuzikyan

Fortuna Fortune

Melanie Gowie

Amore Cupid

Barbara Cole Walton

Penelope wife of Ulysses

Eirlys Myfanwy Davies

Ericlea Euricleia, Ulysses' old nurse

Elfa Stefánsdóttir

Melanto Melantho, Penelope's maid

Ayaka Tanimoto

Eurimaco Eurymachus, a shepherd, Melantho's lover

Kenneth Reid

Nettuno Neptune

Arshak Kuzikyan

Giove Jupiter

Luke Sinclair

Giunone Juno

Heather Jamieson

Julia Daramy-Williams (Nov 4 voice)

Lucy Allen (Nov 4 mime)

Ulisse Ulysses, King of Ithaca

Andreas Backlund


Hazel McBain

Eumete Eumaeus, an old swineherd

Matthew Morgan

Iro Irus, a glutton

Joseph Oparamanuike

Telemaco Telemachus, son of Ulysses and Penelope

Luperci de Souza

Pisandro Peisander, a suitor

Marco Di Chio

Anfinomo Amphinomus, a suitor

Jonathan Cooke

Antinöo Antinous, a suitor

Dominic Barberi

Performance DatesReturn of Ulysses 2013

Map List

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland | Glasgow

4 Nov, 19.15 5 Nov, 19.15 7 Nov, 19.15 9 Nov, 19.15

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