Opera Scotland

Elektra 1974Royal Opera, Stockholm

Read more about the opera Elektra

Fifteen years after the Royal Opera from Stockholm had made a first Edinburgh Festival appearance, they returned with a memorable pair of early 20th century masterpieces. Of the four operas brought to Edinburgh by the Swedes in 1974, Jenůfa and Elektra were performed in a conventional, but thrilling, way. The recent work, The Vision of Thérèse, was performed in the round at STV's Gateway studios. A little-known Handel pastorale, Il pastor fido, completed their offering. Scottish Opera ventured into the supposedly rarified world of Gluck for the first time, with an under-rated staging of Alceste. The Festival's own production of Don Giovanni was revived from the previous year. There were also rare performances of two Schoenberg pieces, Pierrot Lunaire with Cleo Laine and Erwartung featuring Anja Silja. They fitted a Schoenberg theme that also included Catherine Gayer in some of his cabaret songs and Heather Harper in the Second Quartet.

The opera schedule was as follows:

First week, commencing 19 Aug: Mon Alceste; Tue -; Wed Don Giovanni; Thu Alceste; Fri Don Giovanni; Sat Alceste.

Second week, commencing 26 Aug: Mon Don Giovanni; Tue Alceste; Wed -; Thu Elektra; Fri -; Sat Jenůfa.

Third week, commencing Sun 1 Sep: Sun Elektra; Mon Vision of Thérèse; Tue Il pastor fido & Vision of Thérèse; Wed Jenůfa; Thu Il pastor fido; Fri Elektra; Sat Jenůfa.

The stalls of the King’s Theatre were half-filled with orchestra for a series of memorable performances of Elektra. The Stockholm company stars were out in force, with Scottish Opera's stand-in Brünnhilde of 1971 making a welcome return as Chrysothemis. Several of the singers, including Barbro Ericson, Kjerstin Dellert, Erik Saedén and Ragnar Ulfung, had already been principals during the company's first visit in 1959, and were still in excellent form. For the last night, the title role was taken by an excellent Yugoslav soprano - in world terms probably second only to the great Nilsson at that period.

Perhaps the longest-lasting effect of this visit came because the gap in Birgit Nilsson’s schedule only allowed her to fly in for the opening performance. Naturally the demand for tickets would be phenomenal. The lady suggested, rather tentatively, that the only way she could have enough rest after the first night and still fit in a second performance would be if she could sing on a Sunday. Perhaps she remembered the city as it had been in 1959. No-one had performed at the Edinburgh Festival on the Sabbath before – theatres all closed, restaurants all closed, a gloomy prospect. But a check revealed that there was no problem with licensing, the Council and theatre management had no objection – it had simply never occurred to anyone before. So the theatre opened on Sunday, and performances have taken place on a Sunday ever since. Nowadays even the restaurants stay open.

Performance DatesElektra 1974

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King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

29 Aug, 20.00 1 Sep, 20.00 6 Sep, 20.15

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