Opera Scotland

Simoon 2015Music Co-OPERAtive Scotland

Read more about the opera Simoon

After the war, Erik Chisholm moved to South Africa, where his trilogy of murder mystery operas, Murder in Three Keys, was written. The last of these, Simoon, is a psychological thriller, in which the hot, violent desert wind plays a key role. The trilogy was performed in New York in 1954, with the run extended to last for six weeks, but those were arranged for reduced forces (two pianos). This Glasgow performance was therefore the first of the full orchestral score.

The gymnasium of the Western Baths (off Byres Road, and a stone's throw from the popular Óran Mór venue) proved an excellent space for the hour-long piece, comfortably accommodating the band on a low platform, with singers at the front and ample room for an audience of around 200. The presentation included a silent film running in tandem with the music - the parts were effectively mimed by Salma Faraji (Biskra), Erick Mauricia (Yusuf) and Michael Daviot (Guimard) in a fairly literal interpretation of the story.

At a first hearing the work ought  to have possibilities for further success. The sounds produced from the band are varied and fascinating. The writing for voices is effective, and all four singers projected words and grateful musical lines with equal clarity. The one weakness in the plot, at least in a concert presentation, comes perhaps from the fact that the victim is already made vulnerable by his exposure to the desert conditions before Biskra takes her own action to finish him off. His role in the previous murder is minimised, and his selection seems almost at random. How this would fit as the final work of a trilogy can only be imagined - Gianni Schicchi it is not.

The whole enterprise, largely using members of Scottish Opera's orchestra, came over with tremendous conviction, under the controlling hand of Ian Ryan. The reception from the audience was understandably ecstatic. The performance was recorded and issued commercially.

This was an excellent follow-up by the Cottier Chamber Project and McOPERA to last year's revelatory Rothschild's Violin. Whatever next?

Performance Cast

Biskra an Arab guide, lover of Yusuf

Jane Irwin

Yusuf an Arab fighter

Philip Sheffield

Guimard a French Legionnary officer

Damian Thantrey


Charlie Drummond

Performance DatesSimoon 2015

Map List

Western Baths, Glasgow | Glasgow

8 Jun, 19.30

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