Opera Scotland

Otello 1963Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Otello

For Scottish Opera’s second season the number of venues doubled, with the addition of Edinburgh, and there were three programmes instead of two.  Following the previous year's Puccini (Butterfly) and Debussy (Pelléas), the pattern was moved even more towards the unusual.  A Verdi work might have been expected, but with the formation of the new Scottish Opera Chorus, Otello was chosen, wth its blazing start.

An unusual double-bill of the company's first living composer, Dallapiccola, (Night Flight) and Ravel (L'Heure Espagnole) was certainly stimulating. It was not a surprise for a Mozart opera to be presented. However the choice of Seraglio was still a bold one, avoiding the obvious.

Scottish Opera’s first Verdi opera gave a startling opportunity to the fledgling Scottish Opera Chorus, formed mainly from local Glasgow amateur groups. They duly raised the roof with a vengeance during the opening storm sequence. It also helped to give favourite singers from Sadler’s Wells (Charles Craig, Peter Glossop and Emile Belcourt) the chance to sing parts they had not been able to attempt before.

The staging by Anthony Besch, the first of many for Scottish Opera, was very simply laid out on Ralph Koltai's set of ramps at different levels. The massed chorus entry in the third act was always particularly effective. Money was saved on this occasion, and at the first two revivals, by borrowing the costumes from Covent Garden's production which dated only from a few years earlier.

Lebanese soprano Luisa Bosabalian was not previously known in Britain. She had an attractively creamy soprano and a good stage presence, and fortunately the company was able to bring her back regularly. The previous year's Pelléas, Emile Belcourt, was joined by a second Canadian, bass Don Garrard - he was another who would visit often in future years.

The Chorus Master was Leon Lovett, who was himself conducting the Mozart. Listed among the choristers appear several names who would soon become familiar as soloists, including Ann Baird, Joyce McCrindle, Moyra Paterson, John Robertson and John (Lawson) Graham.


Press comment

The Glasgow Herald review (28 May) was captioned 'Persuasive Playing and Superb Singing'

 "Scottish Opera's second Glasgow season got off to a magnificent atart in the King's Theatre last night with Verdi's penultimate masterpiece Otello. This was a performance to match in pretty well all the operatic arts the best of the fare on offer in that other King's at Edinburgh's Festival time.   Not least was this the case in the orchestra pit, where Alexander Gibson, conducting, elicited from the Scottish National Orchestra playing, which, superb in itself, backed the turbulence of the opening and underlined the pathos of the close.

"Here was satisfyingly full-blooded playing to support the full-throated singing cast and chorus provided, extraordinarily persuasiv playing to set off to perfection the sheer beauty, or the poignancy, of the moments of contrast, and the relief from so much dramatic sturm und drang.  On this sound base, and with the visual-aid backing of Ralph Koltai's sets, which were simple, imaginative, striking, effective, there was Anthony Besch's production.

"It would be easy to pick out highlights, spectacular and dramatic - the work lends itself to that with such as the curtain-raising storm scene - the chorus here sang with splendid spirit, if somewhat untidily at times; the Iago-provoked duet between Montano and the drunken Cassio and the exquisite love scen between Desdemona and Otello - all in the first act; on to the deaths of Desdemona and Otello in the moving finale.  These were indeed highlights, but they were also part of a gripping and convincing whole in which - apart from the occasional first night slip - every move, every gesture told.

"The cast as a whole measured up to the same high level of achievement. There were no throw-away parts here.  The Roderigo of Edward Byles,  Don Garrard's Lodovico,  William McCue's Montano,  John Graham's Herald,  Laura Sarti's Emilia, the wife of Iago, were as credible and convincing characterisations as those of the four main protagonists.  Of these the Cassio of Emile Belcourt was less ingratiating vocally, perhaps, but still a fine bit of playing.   The Otello of Charles Craig, apart from a passing lapse of memory and a brief moment of tiredness late on, was a superb bit of singing in a most testing role.  The Iago of Peter Glossop, also a powerful characterisation, with an added touch of jealous malevolence in it, was no less resonantly powerful vocally.  The Desdemona of Luisa Bosabalian, with a voice of sheer loveliness, was in at the most moving moments of the evening.   Let Scottish opera keep this up, this will be a most moving week."


Schedule foe Scottish Opera's Second Season - 1963

In Scottish Opera’s second season, one week was given in Glasgow followed by a week in Edinburgh.

Glasgow, w/c 27 May:  Mon 27 Otello;  Tue 28 Seraglio;  Wed 29 Volo di Notte and L’Heure Espagnole;  Thu 30 Seraglio;  Fri 31 Volo di Notte and L’Heure Espagnole; Sat 01 Otello.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 June: Mon 3 Otello; Tue 4 Seraglio; Wed 5 Volo di Notte and L’Heure Espagnole; Thu 6 Seraglio;  Fri 7 Volo di Notte and L’Heure Espagnole;  Sat 8 Otello.

Performance Cast

Montano predecessor of Otello in Cyprus

William McCue

Cassio Otello's lieutenant

Emile Belcourt

Iago Otello's ensign

Peter Glossop

Roderigo a Venetian gentleman

Edward Byles

Otello a Moorish general, Venetian Governor of Cyprus

Charles Craig

Desdemona Otello's wife

Luisa Bosabalian

Emilia Iago's wife and Desdemona's companion

Laura Sarti


John Lawson Graham

Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic

Don Garrard

Performance DatesOtello 1963

Map List

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

27 May, 19.00 1 Jun, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Jun, 19.00 8 Jun, 19.00

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