Opera Scotland

Lady in the Dark 1988Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Lady in the Dark

At the 1987 Edinburgh Festival, Scottish Opera's newly-appointed musical director, John Mauceri, an authority on classic American musical theatre, assembled a performance of the Gershwins' Girl Crazy.  This was thoroughly enjoyable, even if it showed some signs of the haste with which it had been assembled.  The confusions of the book also explained why the piece was soon to be substantially remodelled with great success as Crazy for You, a hit on Broadway, in the West End and on a couple of national tours.

A follow-up for 1988 was clearly desirable, and Weill's Lady in the Dark worked perfectly.  Without being announced before, the first part of the evening highlighted the influence of central European Jewish composers, some of whom escaped to the United States before the war.  The opener was a nearly unknown piece by Richard Strauss, not Jewish, and who remained behind.  His concert waltz München (19339) is less well-known than the later tribute to his favourite city after its damage in the conflict - Metamorphosen.  The waltz was followed by Schoenberg's beautiful  Chamber Symphony No 2 (1940).  The introduction to Weill came with his first overture for Lady in the Dark (also 1940).

After the interval came the main work of the evening.  Lady in the Dark, with a book by Moss Hart and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, contains three extensive musical dream sequences, essentially fore-runners of Weill's later Broadway operas, such as Street Scene.  However it is also a serious play aout mental illness and psychoanalysis.

 

Patricia Hodge, a real West End star, was already known for her performances as Gertrude Lawrence, who had created Liza on Broadway.  She gave a delightful interpretation of the wide range of songs provided by Weill, culminating in the wonderfully ribald 'Song of Jenny' and the soulful 'My Ship'.

The part of Russell Pxxton, created by Danny Kaye, is best known for its Gilbertian patter-song reeling off the names of a multitude of Russian composers, which Forbes Masson delivered with superb aplomb.

The important, indeed central, role of the psychoanalyst was delivered by a recognised star of the RSC in Richard Griffiths, in superb form.  There were also excellent contributions from Mark Tinkler and Martin McEvoy, supported by lots of solo turns from members of the Scottish Opera Chorus.

 

Sadly, John Mauceri did not stay long enough to present a wide range of American works, though he did start with Jonathan Miller's interesting production of Bernstein's Candide.   He also brought us a follow-up to Lady in the Dark in a full staging of Weill's Street Scene, perhaps his masterpiece, in 1989.  Blitzstein's Regina was generally considered to be much less effective.  Decca used the Scottish Opera chorus and orchestra to make landmark recordings of both those works.

Performance DatesLady in the Dark 1988

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Usher Hall | Edinburgh

31 Aug, 20.00

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