Opera Scotland

Soldier's Tale 2021Edinburgh International Festival

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The final item of Nicola Benedetti's fascinating residence surveying the role of the violin, was a lunchtime double - two performances of Stravinsky's Soldier's Tale.  She directed a band of brilliant virtuoso  musicians (largely SCO principals) in a delightful work which has rarely been performed at the Festival.

The seven faultless players were Nicola Benedetti (violin);  Nicholas Bayley (double bass);  Maximiliano Martín (clarnet);  Ursula Leveaux (bassoon);  Philip Cobb (cornet);  Peter Moore (trombone) and Louise Goodwin (percussion).  All quite superb.

The performing space at Edinburgh Academy Junior School, generally used for larger scale concerts during the Festival, at first seemed over-large was this intimate chamber piece.  The audience seemed huge, though socially spaced in accordance with Covid rules.  It was hard to believe that audience members right at the back could have enjoyed much sense of involvement.

A further difficulty arose from the fact that this particular Saturday saw a long-lasting and very heavy deluge that soaked the city and Festival patrons to the skin.  The surrounding grass areas and footpaths were awash.  The interior of the vast marquee was cool, but not unpleasant, and, at least for the second performance, there was no obvious percussion on the roof.

This concert performance was devised by veteran baritone Sir Thomas Allen, who also took the part of the Narrator.  He is quite accustomed to spoken parts now - indeed he recently played Gloucester in a staging of King Lear down south.  His control of proceeding was relaxed and clearly-projected.

The soldier, usually presented by an actor, was here played by young tenor Anthony Flaum, most familiar from his appearances with OperaUp Close, an excellent fringe touring company.  He was a relaxed performer, quite comfortable with what must have been a larger set-up than he was accustomed to.

Unusually, the Devil was played by a female, the superb Siobhan Redmond.  A few years ago she made her only previous appearance on the OperaScotland website, in Britten's cantata Noyes Fludde she played the Voice of God.  She clearly found batting for the other side an enjoyable experience.

Given the concert presentation, it is perhaps ironic that we did not see the danced part of the Princess.  Back in 1967, when the Festival had a Stravinsky theme, Scottish Opera presented an excellent staging in the Assembly Hall, in which the dancer was Una Stubbs, a wonderful actress who died in Edinburgh on 12 August.

Performance DatesSoldier's Tale 2021

Map List

Edinburgh Academy Junior School | Edinburgh

21 Aug, 12.00 21 Aug, 14.30

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