Opera Scotland

Opera Highlights 2021Scottish Opera

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Scottish Opera's Highlights tour for Autumn 2021, when the recovery from pandemic was under way, took the form of a run of eleven indoor performances.  Audiences, as before, had an opportunity to hear a whole range of music in just one performance. The hour-long show is full of fun and bitter-sweet comedy featuring, a playlist of much-loved classics curated by Scottish Opera's Head of Music, Derek Clark.

Soprano Meinir Wyn Roberts and baritone Alexey Gusev are joined by Scottish Opera 2021-22 Emerging Artists, mezzo-soprano Lea Shaw and tenor Glen Cunningham with accompaniment on piano by Musical Director Fiona MacSherry. The stage director is Jeanne Pansard-Bresson.

In line with government guidelines, there are restrictions on attendances.  At the Byre Theatre in St  Andrews, the Saturday matinee audience was limited to around fifty, all socially spaced in the accepted layout of bubbles.


It was a relief to find the Highlights format worked as successfully as ever, though cut to a single hour without interval.  The director's concept was simple.  Two couples are married at the outset and are a happy quartet at the end.  In between, however, they have their ups and downs, including the loss of a baby for the mezzo-baritone pair.  Nor is the journey entirely smooth for the soprano and tenor.

The musical items generally fitted quite well, though the dispute between Susanna and Marcellina from Figaro did seem odd in this context.  However it is so unusual to have this excerpt lifted from the opera that it was well worth hearing.

There were a few items that could be regarded almost as 'standards' in this context, including Handel's Largo and Don Giovanni's Serenade, both beautifully delivered.  The Don José - Micaëla sequence indicated not all was not going smoothly for the soprano-tenor couple, though a baby soon followed (to Norina's opener from Don Pasquale!)

The presence of Alexey Gusev allowed the inclusion of two Tchaikovsky pieces, sung in Russian.  His delivery of Yeletsky's aria from The Queen of Spades really was rather special and one of the highlights of the programme.  The duet from The Maid of Orleans has probably not been heard in Scotland since the Bolshoy gave he opera at Glasgow's Year of Culture 1990.  The baritone then, Vladimir Redkin, who later sang several Verdi roles with Scottish Opera, died recently, so this was a handy tribute.

The tenor had a light and flexible voice with an easy upper range, making his delivery of Smith's Serenade from the Fair Maid of Perth a charming piece, which should be heard more often.  He had as much success with Fenton's aria from Merry Wives.  The serious centre piece was Leonora's aria from La favorita, a piece of late Donizetti in tragic mode.  This allowed Lea Shaw to display her full vocal and dramatic range (which she also revealed at the recent Edinburgh Festival in a masterclass with Thomas Quasthoff).

One real rarity appeared as the programme drew towards a close.  Many of the audience would not have been familiar with the lovely duet from Benedict's Lily of Killarney, a household favourite for several generations, but now forgotten.  It was well worth hearing and seemed somehow remarkably familiar.

After the conventional upbeat ending, with champagne from Fledermaus, the quartet gathered round the piano for the encore,  This was delivered on a darkened stage and highlighted the performance of Fiona MacSherry, whose variety of touch had been a delight throughout the programme.  The 'Goodnight Quartet' from Martha, another piece sadly forgotten, provided a gentle and sweet-toned conclusion to a delightful sequence.


The programme was:

Weber: Quartet 'Over the dark waters'  Oberon. (MWR, LS,  GC,  AG).

Handel: 'Frondi tenere e belle......Ombra mai fu'  Serse  (LS)

Mozart: 'Deh, vieni alla finestra'  Don Giovanni (AG).

Mozart:  'Via resti servita'  Le nozze di Figaro  (MWR, LS).

Bizet:  'A la voix d'un amant fidèle'  La jolie fille de Perth  (GC).

Gounod:  'Ah! Je veux vivre'  Roméo et Juliette  (MWR).

Tchaikovsky: 'O chudni slaskyi son!' The Maid of Orleans (LS,  AG).

Nicolai:  'Horch, die Lerche singt im Hain!'  The Merry Wives of Windsor (GC).

Donizetti:  'Fia dunque veru......O mio Fernando'  La favorita (LS).

Bizet:  'Parle-moi de ma mère'  Carmen  (MWR, GC).

Tchaikovsky:  'Ya vas lyublyu'  The Queen of Spades  (AG).

Donizetti:  'Quel guardo, il cavaliere....So anch'io la virtù magica Don Pasquale (MWR).

Benedict:  'The moon has raised her lamp above'  The Lily of Killarney (GC, AG).

J Strauss II:  Champagne Song Die Fledermaus (MWR, LS, GC, AG).

Encore Flotow:  Goodnight Quartet Martha (MWR, LS, GC, AG).

Performance DatesOpera Highlights 2021

Map List

Beacon Arts Centre, Greenock | Greenock

14 Sep, 19.00

Brunton Theatre | Musselburgh, East Lothian

16 Sep, 19.00

Strathpeffer Pavilion | Strathpeffer

16 Sep, 19.00

Byre Theatre | St Andrews

18 Sep, 14.30 18 Sep, 19.30

Village Hall, Ballachulish | Ballachulish, Argyll

21 Sep, 19.00

An Lanntair | Stornoway, Lewis

25 Sep, 14.30 25 Sep, 19.30

Eastgate Arts Centre, Peebles | Peebles

28 Sep, 19.00

Gaiety Theatre, Ayr | Ayr

29 Sep, 19.00

Queen's Hall, Dunoon | Dunoon

2 Oct, 19.00

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