Scottish Opera are an excellent small opera company, but with limited funding they can only do five full scale operas a year. However, they do have an active touring programme to smaller towns, The Wee Review reported on their latest tour last month, and they also do excellent schools and outreach programmes. In addition, they do regular concert operas at their base, the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. This Sunday afternoon it is a programme called From Russia With Love – a selection of scenes and arias from Russian operas, no doubt occasioned by the centenary of the Russian Revolution. The concert is done in coalition with The National Opera Studio which has an annual residency with Scottish Opera where many of the best young singers in Britain gain experience with our national opera company.
The first half comprises scenes from lesser known Russian operas, beginning with Rimsky-Korsakov’s The Golden Cockerel where a very good counter-tenor Feargal Mostyn-Williams sings the Astrologer and also manages a very good cartwheel! He is ably assisted by Carly Owen as the Queen of Shemakha. As in all the operatic sketches the singers not only sing well but act convincingly. They are ably supported by very effective staging using the backdrop of Jonathan Dove’s Flight (to be reviewed soon) but with individual props and business.
Rimsky-Korsakov’s little known Kaschey The Immortal provides the second aria for Bethan Langford, also very well sung; Tchaikovsky’s The Little Slippers provides the stage for Bechara Moufarrej and Carly Owen to give us lots of fun and some fine singing; and finally, we have two scenes from Stravinsky’s The Rake’s Progress with Andrew Henley and Edmund Danon and Lorena Paz Nieto, a petite Spanish soprano with an excellent voice.
After the interval we have some better known Russian operas, starting with a British/Russian one, William Walton’s little performed The Bear, based on a Gogol short story. In this scene, Sinead O’Kelly plays Madame Popova, singing a lament to her dead husband, but recounting hilariously how unfaithful he had been during their marriage, including 100 letters from his mistresses. This is accompanied by a chorus of women brandishing #MeToo placards!
This is followed by scenes from the great Khovanshchina, composed by Mussorgsky but completed by Rimsky-Korsakov and arranged by Shostakovich – quite a pedigree! Following an aria from Boris Gudonov, the evening concludes with perhaps the finest and most performed Russian opera, Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin with Indonesian tenor Satriya Krisna singing Lensky’s great aria and then the duel scene with Emyr Wyn Jones and Danon.
The scenes are accompanied by the Scottish Opera Orchestra under the baton of Stuart Stratford and aided by excellent subtitles. Scottish Opera has shown yet again that you can make opera convincing with minimum props, but above all with excellent young singers, the future of opera looks bright!