Opera Scotland

Sea Symphony 1984Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Sea Symphony

During his thoroughly enjoyable years in charge of the SNO, Neeme Järvi absorbed a good deal of British music he was unlikely to have encountered before. Flott was now well established as an international star, and Vaughan Williams' choral symphony was an excellent vehicle for her.

The programming of other works can be challenging. This time seems to have taken a hint from the British amateur choral tradition by including one rather obvious masterpiece of the English repertoire in Parry's justly popular Blest Pair of Sirens. The central item was perhaps more enterprisiing. In scheduling Britten's Baudelaire settings, Les Illuminations, Felicity Lott's empathy with French culture was given a boost.


The 1984 Edinburgh Festival was the first under the guidance of theatre director Frank Dunlop. Many examples of his work had been seen at previous festivals, going back to the sixties. After the previous year's superbly adventurous Viennese programming, it remained to be seen how he would achieve the challenging balancing act faced by every director when the various elements of opera, dance, classical concerts and drama need to be offset.

The chunky programme book containing details of every event - an idea repeated from 1983, but not to be continued thereafter - reveals the difficulty in the operatic programme. The central event was scheduled to be a second visit by Welsh National Opera. The two operas were to be a recent successful UK premiere production of Greek Passion by Martinů, conducted by Charles Mackerras, and Parsifal to be led by tha great Wagnerian Sir Reginald Goodall. In the event, Goodall was too ill to attend, and was to be replaced by his assistant. The Festival bizarrely pulled the plug on the entire visit, at very short notice, leaving a gaping hole in the schedule, annoying those who had wanted to see both operas. The reaction of the various Welsh personnel can only be imagined.

What remained was rather thin. Scottish Opera followed its previous success with L'Egisto by importing a staging of Cavalli's L'Orione from Santa Fe. The Washington opera brought a double bill of early Menotti works, The Telephone and The Medium. In those impoverished circumstances, a concert performance of Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle, with Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau and his wife Julia Varady assumed much greater importance. Fortunately there were several excellent choral works on show - the Rossini Stabat Mater, Vaughan Williams Sea Symphony, Delius Mass of Life, Prokofiev Alexander Nevsky and Mozart Coronation Mass

Performance DatesSea Symphony 1984

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Usher Hall | Edinburgh

21 Aug, 20.00

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