Opera Scotland

Catiline Conspiracy 1974Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Catiline Conspiracy

When Scottish Opera announced that they had, with help from the BBC, commissioned four operas from Scottish composers, to be premiered in successive seasons from 1974, and each to be guaranteed a run of ten performances, the enterprise seemed a bold one. With benefit of nearly forty years of hindsight the idea seems astonishing, and the fact that all four appeared on schedule, and were reasonably well received, now seems frankly miraculous. The four composers - Robin Orr, Thomas Wilson and Thea Musgrave following Hamilton, accepted the strict conditions imposed. All the works were restricted to chamber orchestra and small chorus. The result was a series of concentrated dramas.

Catiline was the first to appear, and it was revived four years later. The composer chose a forgotten tragedy by Ben Jonson, augmented with reference to the original classical sources. The result cut a complicated scenario down to an acceptably stageworthy drama. Musically it was attractive with several solo opportunities for the starry cast of singers who were gathered. The production by Anthony Besch outlined the events clearly, and the designs by Luciana Arrighi, better known for her cinema work, gave an ideal Senate-influenced setting with detailed period costumes and make-up.

Donald Bell only ever sang this one role with the company, though he gave an excellent interpretation, and would come back for the revival. Thomas Hemsley even managed to look like busts of Caesar. Richard Angas and Alexander Young were luxury casting for the scenes in the Senate, and duly made a big impact. The company regulars were not ouclassed, with Johanna Peters' fruity lower register telling effectively. Catherine Wilson, Patricia Kern, William McCue and David Hillman also seemed to have had the parts tailored specially for them.


The Scottish Opera season

Scottish Opera's spring 1974 season opened on 16 March with a single performance at Stirling's MacRobert Centre.  This was the World Premiere of a new commission from Iain Hamilton, The Catiline Conspiracy.  When the company moved on to its first visit to York, Catiline was joined by the previous season's Merry Widow and the recent compact staging of The Magic Flute.  At Sunderland a revival of the 1970 Traviata joined the programme and the ensemble then moved on to Oxford.  The Flute was then the only work seen in Perth before the main season opened in Glasgow. In that city, Newcastle, Edinburgh and Aberdeen, the repertoire of Catiline, Merry Widow and Traviata, all of which used the Scottish Chamber Orchestra or its expanded version, the Scottish Philharmonia, was augmented by the two operas that required the services of the SNO - revivals of the 1965 Boris Godunov and 1970 Fidelio.

Performance Cast

Ghost of Sulla

Glenville Hargreaves

Fulvia a courtesan

Catherine Wilson

Sempronia a wealthy patrician

Johanna Peters

Caesar a senator

Thomas Hemsley

Crassus Consul

William McCue

Catiline a senator

Donald Bell

Galla Fulvia's maid

Nan Christie

Aurelia Catiline's wife

Patricia Kern

Lentulus conspirator and senator

Malcolm Donnelly

Quintus conspirator and senator

David Hillman

Lecca conspirator and senator

Norman White

Longinus conspirator and senator

Glenville Hargreaves

Cethegus conspirator and senator

John Robertson

Cato a senator

Richard Angas

Cicero Consul

Alexander Young

Performance DatesCatiline Conspiracy 1974

Map List

MacRobert Arts Centre | Stirling

16 Mar, 19.30

Theatre Royal, York | York

20 Mar, 19.30

Empire Theatre, Sunderland | Sunderland

29 Mar, 19.30

New Theatre | Oxford

3 Apr, 19.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

26 Apr, 19.30 3 May, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Newcastle | Newcastle-upon-Tyne

14 May, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

23 May, 19.30 31 May, 19.30

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

5 Jun, 19.30

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