Edgar Giacomo Puccini Scottish Opera concert performance
***** (5 stars)
I went to see this concert performance of one of Puccini’s early operas expecting to be bored – Puccini not being my favourite composer – and found to my surprise that I really enjoyed myself! As well as splendid roles for soprano and tenor, there were two excellent roles for mezzo and baritone, a major part for the chorus [including the Scottish Opera Young Company], and the additional bonus of having the superb Scottish Opera Orchestra on the platform in plain sight instead of being tucked away down in the pit.
The plot is melodramatic, and the characters mainly two-dimensional stereotypes. Set in Flanders in 1302, the noble hero Edgar is seduced by the wiles of the gypsy Tigrana, who seduces him away from his home and from the woman who loves him – the pure and noble Fidelia. Frank, Fidelia’s brother, is also drawn to Tigrana, but is rejected. Edgar, realising the error of his ways, rejects Tigrana and determines to redeem himself by fighting for Flanders on the field of battle. Tigrana vows to avenge herself…
There was some superb singing and a lot of good music with hints of Puccini’s future operatic successes: I certainly heard snatches of Madama Butterfly, Manon Lescaut and Tosca. The orchestra was often telling the story with the vocal line soaring above it, and the principals, singing without scores from the front of the stage, reached out and grabbed us effortlessly.
Peter Auty’s Edgar seemed to be suffering vocally: his middle and lower register came out clear and strong, but some of the high notes seemed to be requiring a lot of effort and a few didn’t seem to want to come out. He isn’t the most expressive of actors – but that seems to be quite common among tenors! Claire Rutter’s Fidelia was a moving blend of innocence and fidelity, especially in her grief at Edgar’s supposed death: her gorgeous soprano voice came out clear and strong, with some lovely pianissimid. David Stout was excellent as Frank – he has a lovely baritone voice and a very mobile face, much more expressive than Edgar in the duel [with air swords], fractionally less credible as the passionate lover struggling with his infatuation with the ‘evil’ seductress Tigrana.
But the show was stolen by Justina Gringytiė’s Tigrana. From the first moment of her appearance, supremely indifferent to the scorn and insults of the crowd of church-goers, to the final tragic moments of the opera, she had us all bewitched. Truly the devil gets all the best tunes and the baddies have all the fun! Her voice was magnificent and her facial expressions incredibly eloquent: she obviously enjoyed the power she had over her lovers and the sensual pleasures she could offer them. She became a tigress when scorned by Edgar yet seemed so genuine in her grief over Edgar’s coffin – only to cast off that mask and display a vindictive pleasure in getting her revenge on Edgar by killing Fidelia.
The Glasgow audience cheered and applauded this opportunity to enjoy one of Puccini’s first operas – it is to be hoped that this won’t be its only appearance in Glasgow.
Edgar Giacomo Puccini Scottish Opera concert performance – RUN ENDED
Review by Mary Woodward