Opera Scotland

Ariodante 1982Teatro alla Scala, Milan (Piccola Scala)

Read more about the opera Ariodante

The first visit by La Scala to Edinburgh since 1957 was arranged at very short notice. The planned visit by another company fell through, and the final week of the Italian-themed Festival was looking distinctly threadbare when La Scala's director, Claudio Abbado, long a favourite in Edinburgh, came galloping to the rescue with two hugely enjoyable productions, this Handel alternating with an early Rossini rarity La pietra del paragone.

Ariodante, although established as one of Handel's most immediately accessible operas, was receiving its first Scottish performances, despite (or maybe because of?) its fanciful Edinburgh location. They were almost faultless musically, and nearly as good dramatically. Roger Norrington, having established his operatic credentials over many years with Kent Opera, was now expanding his career on the continent, and after his successes with Monteverdi, was introducing his views on performance practice in Handel. The result here was lithe and dramatic. Pier Luigi Pizzi, originally a designer, had diversified into direction, so his concept had a sense of unity and looked beautiful, even if one or two elements did not quite work. The general idea was mediaeval with an element reminiscent of the pre-Raphaelites, and it was beautifully lit.

The cast was uniformly excellent, all making what turned out to be their only appearances in Scotland. It was led by the English mezzo Carolyn Watkinson, who spent most of her career on the continent. She sang the title role's contrasting arias beautifully and was the linch-pin of the drama. The Texan soprano Lella Cuberli, perhaps better known for Rossini roles, had the easy technique required for Handel and created a sympathetic figure. Another Rossini specialist, the Peruvian tenor Ernesto Palacio, produced a slightly wiry sound, but also had no difficulty creating a believable character through the music. Jeffrey Gall had an unusual-sounding counter-tenor, quite reedy, and did sound sinister. His costume had high-heeled footwear that looked quite hazardous for his balance. Lucia Aliberti was a sweet-toned soprano in the important servant role.

Given that Scottish Opera had not at this stage performed any Handel, and that the Welsh National production of Tamerlano had featured earlier in the Festival, this was a very welcome addition to the programme.

The Festival's opera programme

The 1982 Edinburgh Festival had an Italian theme, though the opera programme did not follow this slavishly.  Scottish Opera at least performed  an opera by a composer generally ignored in the past - Puccini - and Manon Lescaut had not been seen in Scotland since Carl Rosa days, nearly thirty years before.

German opera companies had often visited Edinburgh.  However these were generally from the West - Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart or Cologne.   Here,  less than a decade before the seemingly miraculous removal of the Wall,  we had a famous company from the East.   The Dresden State Opera was closely connected with Richard Strauss,  as the launchpad for most of his operas,   If Ariadne auf Naxos was actually premiered elsewhere,  it did at least fit the intimate King's Theatre well, and also linked to the Festival's Italian theme through its commedia element.   German companies also tended to bring a Mozart singspiel,  either Zauberflöte, or, as here, Entführung,

Welsh National Opera's contribution was Handel - the first Scottish performances of Tamerlano.  This tied in very neatly with a second Handel masterpiece,  Ariodante,  that ended the Festival in a lovely production by the Piccola Scala from Milan. They also brought a delightful early Rossini comedy, La pietra del paragone.

Performance Cast

Re di Scozia King of Scotland, Ginevra's father

Alfredo Zanazzo

Ginevra a princess, engaged to Ariodante

Lella Cuberli

Dalinda Ginevra's lady-in-waiting

Lucia Aliberti

Polinesso Duke of Albany

Jeffrey Gall

Ariodante a prince, in the King's service

Carolyn Watkinson

Odoardo a courtier

Ernesto Gavazzi

Lurcanio Ariodante's younger brother

Ernesto Palacio

Performance DatesAriodante 1982

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

10 Sep, 19.30 11 Sep, 19.30

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