Opera Scotland

Flight 2022Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Read more about the opera Flight

Flight, launched by Glyndebourne in 1998, is one of the most successful new operas to have appeared in recent years.  Students of what was then the RSAMD gave the Scottish premiere in 2006.  It is therefore entirely appropriate that a new generation of students should have another go at it.  Scottish Opera's own staging back in 2018 was highly successful, so it looks as if this opera is one that will last.  The text by April de Angelis provides an unusually successful mix of the comic and serious, as the airport becomes stormbound, with flights grounded, and various complications developing.

This run gave the world premiere of the composer's own arrangement for a smaller orchestra.  Dove has over many years prepared reduced orchestrations of masterpieces by many dead composers.  To attempt something similar on his own work must have been a fascinating, if challenging experience.  Here there was an orchestra of 31 players- Scottish Opera in 2018 used 53.  Conductor Matthew Kofi Waldren kept his forces under tight control and in the intimate Athenaeum space there was plenty of sound.

We have become so accustomed to the use of surtitles, even for a performance in English, that there was a brief sense almost of alarm at the realisation that we were to be deprived.  No need to worry though.  Diction throughout was wonderfully clear, and the intricacies of the plot could be followed without difficulty.  The staging, directed by James Bonas in the stylish designs of Tom Paris with the important lighting of Rob Casey,  ticked all the necessary boxes in economical fashion.

The part of the Controller is notoriously difficult,  with awkward coloratura flourishes and exposed high notes.  She also communicates many of the plot developments, while revealing that she actually prefers her lovely airport in the early morning, when it isn't cluttered up with passengers.  In the first cast, Rosalind Dobson projected her important text with ease.  The other character who may be considered to be an airport resident  is the refugee, unable to gain entry to the country, while awaiting the arrival of his brother. He spends much of his time cadging money off the other characters, while avoiding the Immigration Officer and the Controller.  This role, interestingly composed for countertenor, was a dominant presence throughout, fullof pathos, powerfully voiced by Matt Paine.

The five passengers and two aircrew were well differentiated and uniformly well sung.  Jonathan Forbes Kennedy and Charlotte Richardson as the stewards began by mouthing standard platitudes before becoming more interesting.  Bill and Tina (Cameron Mitchell and Claudia Haussmann)  were a couple, joyously heading off on holiday, whose lives are slightly derailed by the storm - Tina's drunken revelation that she now finds Bill to be completely tedious leads him to try igniting a spark by a dalliance with the Stewardess, only to end up, quite happily, with the Steward.

The remaining three characters include an Older Woman (Wiktoria Wizner), waiting in vain for the arrival of her Spanish toyboy, and a diplomatic couple.  They are heading off to a posting in Belarus, about which she is understandably ambivalent, being in an advanced state of pregnancy.  After a brief spat she (Lindsay Grace Johnson) stays behind, while he (Toki Hamano) jets off to take up his job in Minsk.  Only at the end does he think better of it, and returns to the joys of family life, just in time for the birth.

This largely comic opera really does contain plenty to maintain the interest, and the audience lapped it up.    

Performance DatesFlight 2022

Map List

New Athenaeum Theatre | Glasgow

12 Mar, 19.15 14 Mar, 19.15 16 Mar, 19.15 18 Mar, 19.15

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