Opera Scotland

Alfonso and Estrella 1968Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Alfonso und Estrella

The 1968 Festival’s celebration of Schubert did not take the opportunity to stage any of his operas. However Alfonso at least received its British premiere in a concert performance of excellent quality. Alexander Gibson's conducting combined the lyrical with the dramatic, with thrilling choral work supported by the Scottish National Orchestra.

There was a notable cluster of soloists. Two of them were star performers of British origin  Thomas Hemsley was hardly known on his home turf at this time, having spent most of his career in Germany.  Richard Lewis's appearances in Scotland were now quite rare.

Josef Greindl had been a regular at Bayreuth singing major Wagner bass roles over two decades, and was still at the height of his powers when it came to projecting evil.  The great and highly versatile American soprano Phyllis Curtin had impressed in 1966 in Scottish Opera's Faust and had quickly been invited back, though her main role in this Festival was Ellen Orford.


Opera at the 1968 Festivals

In 1968, the Edinburgh Festival followed its Stravinsky theme of the previous year by concentrating on two composers, Britten and Schubert. The result was a Festival full of memorable concerts and recitals.

Perhaps the operatic side was slightly uncertain. Scottish Opera had recently been exploring Albert Herring (taking it to Florence on the company's first foreign tour in May).  They now produced Peter Grimes for the first time.  The English Opera Group also brought the most recent of Britten's stage works, the three Parables for Church Performance.

Schubert's operas have always been seen as a problem area of his output, with stagings extremely rare. Sadly, no full-scale presentation was attempted here, but the Festival did at least mount a memorable concert performance of Alfonso und Estrella, with forces largely from Scottish Opera.

The visiting company was again from Germany - a third season by the Hamburg State Opera, previously seen in 1952 and 1956. The original plans included the British premiere of Arden Must Die, Alexander Goehr's recent adaptation of the anonymous Elizabethan tragedy Arden of Feversham, as well as a Scottish premiere for Strauss's Arabella.

In the event, due to the notorious technical restrictions imposed by the antiquated stage facilities of the King's Theatre, the only venue then available for opera, the Strauss novelty was quickly dropped, even before the announcement of the Festival schedule.  Though the Goehr was initially announced, along with Fliegende Holländer and Ariadne auf Naxos, by the time booking opened it had been substituted with Elektra - admittedly requiring a large orchestra, but with only one simple set.

Scottish Opera also made its first appearance on the Fringe.   In addition to its excellent Peter Grimes, it gave its first staging of a work by Monteverdi.   The brief comedy, Il ballo delle ingrate, was mounted as a late-night entertainment.

Performance Cast

Froila deposed King of Leon

John Shaw

Alfonso Froila's son

Richard Lewis


Duncan Robertson

Estrella Mauregato's daughter

Phyllis Curtin


Patricia Hay

Mauregato usurper King of Leon

Thomas Hemsley

Adolfo a general in Mauregato's service

Josef Greindl

Captain of the Guard

Duncan Robertson

Performance DatesAlfonso and Estrella 1968

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

7 Sep, 19.30

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