Opera Scotland

Return of Ulysses 1978Zurich Opera

Read more about the opera Ritorno d'Ulisse in Patria

1978 marked Peter Diamand's final Festival, and many of his old colleagues returned for the occasion. The opera programme seems astonishingly generous by more recent standards. The previous season's 'house' staging of Carmen was repeated. Scottish Opera revived its superb Pelléas et Mélisande, while the Frankfurt Opera brought a good cast in a staging of Kátya Kabanová. There was also a first visit by the Zurich Opera, bringing their cycle of the three full-length Monteverdi operas, L'Orfeo, L'incoronazione di Poppea and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria.

Unlike Orfeo and Poppea, Ulisse had not been performed in Scotland before. Recent British stagings showed different attitudes to performing the piece. The Glyndebourne production by Peter Hall had a luxurious Renaissance court feel to it and used Leppard's lush realisation. The wonderful cast was led by Janet Baker and Benjamin Luxon, and was televised (and eventually released on DVD). The Kent Opera version, a follow-up to the magical Orfeo seen in Stirling, used original instruments in a realisation by Roger Norrington, and had a very spare staging with Sarah Walker and Neil Jenkins in the leads.

By contrast with these, the Ponnelle staging was, on the whole, a sad let down. The opera does contain much humour, but it is important to get the balance right. This staging went over the top, so the farcical treatment reduced the sense of threat posed by the suitors to a nullity. One definite plus came with Ponnelle's attempt to recreate some baroque stage effects - especially the sea being represented by a group of stage-wide rollers rotating as Ulysses came ashore, giving a memorable result.

Werner Hollweg was effective, doubling the title role and the part of Human Frailty in the prologue. One talent shone out very brightly, and that was the still-unknown young Mexican tenor Francisco Araiza as Telemachus. His reunion with his father was one of the few sequences not affected by the antics of the others. It seemed odd to have the character role of Irus sung by a heldentenor - with Scottish Opera Arley Reece was more appropriately cast as the Drum Major in Wozzeck. Simon Estes sounded completely different by comparison with the lyrical bass sound remembered from 1971 - he was now concentrating on heavier baritone roles and would soon sing the Dutchman at Bayreuth.

Performance Cast

Humana Fragiltà Human Frailty

Werner Hollweg

Tempo Time

Werner Gröschel

Fortuna Fortune

Renate Lenhart

Amore Cupid

Klaus Brettschneider

Penelope wife of Ulysses

Ortrun Wenkel

Ericlea Euricleia, Ulysses' old nurse

Maria Minetto

Melanto Melantho, Penelope's maid

Sylvia Greenberg

Eurimaco Eurymachus, a shepherd, Melantho's lover

Peter Keller

Nettuno Neptune

Hans Franzen

Giove Jupiter

Jozsef Dene

Giunone Juno

Renate Lenhart

Ulisse Ulysses, King of Ithaca

Werner Hollweg


Helrun Gardow

Eumete Eumaeus, an old swineherd

Philippe Huttenlocher

Iro Irus, a glutton

Arley Reece

Telemaco Telemachus, son of Ulysses and Penelope

Francisco Araiza

Pisandro Peisander, a suitor

Peter Straka

Anfinomo Amphinomus, a suitor

Paul Esswood

Antinöo Antinous, a suitor

Simon Estes

Performance DatesReturn of Ulysses 1978

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

1 Sep, 19.30 4 Sep, 19.30

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