Opera Scotland

Tabarro 2023Scottish Opera

Read more about the opera Tabarro

The complete trio of one-act operas by Puccini had, until now, only had a single performance in Scotland.  Sadler's Wells Opera gave it during a two-week stay in Glasgow in 1957.  On that occasion, the company's musical director, young Alexander Gibson, conducted Gianni SchicchiSuor Angelica was in the hands of a second Scottish conductor, Marcus Dods.

Since then, Schicchi is the only one to have appeared at the Edinburgh Festival (with Tito Gobbi in 1969).  English Touring Opera brought Il tabarro and Schicchi to the Perth Festival in 2011.  Opera North presented Il tabarro and Suor Angelica in Edinburgh in 2016.

Glasgow-born Sir David McVicar has thus far directed Puccini's Tosca with great success at the New York Met   His staging of Madama Butterfly was an early success with Scottish Opera in 2000, and has been frequently revived.  He has also directed La bohème for Glyndebourne. These shorter works benefitted from his eye for detail in action and character.  All three operas included silent extras, with extra dockside workers, nuns and their customers, and a corpse, as appropriate.

This last of the five evenings was conducted in majestic fashion by Derek Clark. He has been the company's Head of Music since 1997, with twenty years at WNO before that.  He first worked on Trittico in 1975 as a student in Glasgow.  With all that experience he is an expert Puccinian, and the pacing of each of these contrasting works was perfect.  These were his final performances before retiring.  The packed theatre gave him a justifiably enthusiastic send-off.


The three sets designed by Charles Edwards all looked equally solid and effective. The canalside scene looked apprepriately squalid, with a massive warehouse to the right and a bridge crossing the canal above the barge to the left.  The lighting was very subtle - generally dark, but with enough to highlight faces and create shadows.  All highly effective.  The dock workers all lifted and carried the cargo items as if they really were heavy. The period was slightly updated to between the wars - was this the influence of the wonderfu Jean Renoir film of canal-boat life L'Atalante?

The cast for Tabarro was uniformly very strong.  Roland Wood, recently seen as Falstaff and Don Giovanni, had two wonderfully contrasting parts, the first without a hint of comedy.  His frustrated husband turned into a vengeful murderer without forfeiting audience sympathy - quite an achievement.  And he sang with a full-throated, trenchamt tone  His errant wife was beautifully sung by a Korean soprano new to the company.  Sunyoung Seo has a voice of effortless power and clarity, while still able to melt, as necessary.  The Russian-born tenor Viktor Antipenko was as yet unknown here.  However he has spent much time of late working with several American companies, and has an excellent reputation.  This turned out to be fully justified, and it seemed a pity that he only had a suitable role in the first of the operas.

The shorter roles were all cast from strength, with Louise Winter the recent Quickly, but perhaps better known in Scotland as a singer of big Mahler pieces such as Song of the Earth.  Julian Close is an excellent dark-toned bass familiar to the Edinburgh Players supporters, but new to Scottish Opera. Jamie MacDougall of course needed no introduction.  The two lovers would find rather more to do in their central roles in Schicchi.

The luridly dramatic climax to this first opera brought a hugely enthusiastic reaction from the audience at the last performance.

Scottish Opera had clearly given this presentation a deal of thought.  While there were only five performances, and all in the central belt, three of those were on a Saturday.  The evenings all began at 6pm, with a thirty minute interval after Il tabarro and a forty minute second break 'for dinner and drinks' before the final comedy.  These long pauses were also presumably necessary for the extensive scene changes. However the shows still ended a few minutes after ten, which was a great help for supporters from further afield.

Performance Cast

Michele a barge owner, aged fifty

Roland Wood

Giorgetta Michele's wife, aged twenty-five

Sunyoung Seo

Luigi a stevedore, aged twenty

Viktor Antipenko

Talpa a stevedore, aged fifty-five

Julian Close

Tinca a stevedore, aged thirty-five

Jamie MacDougall

Frugola Talpa's wife, aged fifty

Louise Winter

Ballad Seller

Osian Wyn Bowen

First Lover

Francesca Chiejina

Second Lover

Elgan Llýr Thomas

Performance DatesTabarro 2023

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

11 Mar, 18.00 15 Mar, 18.00 18 Mar, 18.00

Festival Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

22 Mar, 18.00 25 Mar, 18.00

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