Opera Scotland

Symphony no3 2022Edinburgh International Festival

Read more about the opera Symphony no3

Mahler's gargantuan Third Symphony is one of those special works that seem designed for festivals.  How do we justify including it in a site supposedly devoted to opera?  After all, the one solo singer doesn't put in an appearance until three-quarters of the way through.  Easy.  If a reasonable definition of opera might be 'a musical drama with a strong emotional draw' then that certainly describes Mahler's huge piece, even if the drama and the emotion are substantially supplied by the orchestra.

Further, it appears rarely in our concert halls, and nearly always brings us performers who are in some way special, and who have not appeared in Scotland in operatic roles.  In 1979, Claudio Abbado gave us a rare appearance by the great Italian mezzo Lucia Valentini-Terrani, who died while still at the height of her powers.  On this occasion we have what seems to be the British debut of Linda Watson, recognised as a great interpreter of the leading roles of Wagner and Strauss, who has for years been a familiar visitor to the Met, Bayreuth, Vienna, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Buenos Aires, La Scala and elsewhere.

Here the RSNO and the female voices from their adult and youth choruses combined.  The orchestra's excellent principal conductor, Thomas Søndergård, seems to be gradually working his way through the major Mahlerian repertoire.  Certainly this was a hugely exciting performance, with the performers on their mettle.  The unflagging energy that the conductor displayed at every turn brought a superb quality of music-making from his players.

The RSNO were on super form, with lovely solo work from many quarters - leader Maya Iwabuchi, Henry Clay (cor anglais) and Mark O'Keefe (offstage posthorn) among others.


There was a highly worthwhile addition to the programme in the first performance of For Zoe, a brief threnody by Sir James MacMillan.  This was a short memorial to Zoe Kitson, who was principal cor anglais of the RSNO from 2006 to 2014.  She died earlier this year, aged only 44.  The work lasted a mere five minutes, composed for strings and harp with a wonderfully lyrical solo for cor anglais, and was a moving prelude to the Mahler, which followed without applause, just a brief pause for reflection.  Elements were perhaps reminiscent of The Swan of Tuonela and similar works.  It certainly deserves to be heard again.

Performance Cast


Linda Watson

Performance DatesSymphony no3 2022

Map List

Usher Hall | Edinburgh

23 Aug, 20.00

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