Opera Scotland

Sunday Series - Wagner 2016Scottish Opera

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Concerts have been presented in Glasgow by the Orchestra of Scottish Opera on a Sunday afternoon for several seasons now, allowing the musicians to play works that would not otherwise come their way. The 2015-16 season sees a change of venue, with the use of the Theatre Royal. For this purpose an acoustic shell has been constructed in the company's workshops to help project the sound when the band is moved up on to the stage. After October's Italian Masters, this new arrangement was given a thorough workout with the second of these concerts being devoted to extracts from Wagner.

The original idea was to present the long-awaited company debut of the Glasgow-born bass-baritone Iain Paterson, a rather more familiar figure on the stages of the Coliseum, Covent Garden, New York Met and Bayreuth than he is at home. In the event, illness prevented him from singing, and the company had the great good fortune to bring in James Rutherford, an equally exalted singer in this notoriously demanding area of the repertoire.

The programme remained unchanged, with substantial excerpts from his interpretations of the Dutchman and Wotan in the first half. After the interval he delivered three of the monologues of Hans Sachs - perhaps now his signature role, which he has already sung at Bayreuth.

The complete programme was:

Der fliegende Holländer
Act I 'Die Frist ist um'

Die Walküre
Act 3 'Leb' wohl, du kuhnes, herrliches Kind'

Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg
Act 2 'Was duftet doch der Flieder'
Act 3 Prelude
Act 3 'Wahn! Wahn! Überall, Wahn!'
Act 3 'Verachtet mir die Meister nicht'
Aufzug der Meistersinger. 

The vocal elements of the concert were consistently successful. In the decade since he last sang here, Rutherford's voice has developed greatly in power, while retaining the sweetness of tone that was always a feature. There is also a keen intelligence at work, as was revealed in a brief dialogue with the conductor at the end of the interval. His thoughts about the role of Sachs were quite stimulating.

The orchestral contribution was, for the most part, thoroughly enjoyable. The Flying Dutchman is the only Wagner work to have featured in the company's recent seasons. It is nearly fifteen years since the last Ring, and double that time since the last staging of Mastersingers, so most of the players must have been encountering the music for the first time. The band was much expanded, and, inevitably, lacked the cohesion that would be expected from a team that played this music together frequently. It will also take time for them to get used to the new stage configuration. Certainly there were occasions when the balance was awry - overloud brass being a feature of both overtures. The third act prelude to Mastersingers was the most successful orchestral piece, with some beautifully controlled quiet playing. As the players become familiar with this changed acoustic any difficulties should be removed.

In all this was an extremely enjoyable reminder of some works that are now rarely heard here. Stuart Stratford conducted most of the extracts with plenty of character - the variety of dynamics would no doubt be more subtle in complete performances - if we  ever get any. The introduction to Wotan's farewell seemed a bit of a gallop, but soon settled down.

It is certainly to be hoped that James Rutherford will be heard here more often in future.

Performance Cast


James Rutherford

Performance DatesSunday Series - Wagner 2016

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

28 Feb, 16.00

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