Leaving home for an evening concert of opera when the wind is blowing at force 9 and driving 20 miles to the venue involves a degree of commitment. Scottish Opera are celebrating 50 years of existence and they are touring a celebration of that history involving four young singers and a pianist plus a linking script and a few props. Among their venues was windswept Islay. The team had been delayed by a ferry postponement the day before and they could rightly have been apprehensive about the turnout on a wild night. They need not have worried. Islay folk take these regular tempests in their stride. A full Hall awaited.
The show was called ‘Opera Highlights’ and it was aptly named. The four artists performed the pieces really well. There were items that did not work quite so well for this listener but there was plenty of compensation, with some stunning singing and moving performances. All of the cast could really belt it out and it was thrilling to hear unamplified voices let rip - although occasionally the women singers in particular, threatened any crockery nearby with their high C’s. The newest work, a composition specially composed by the Company’s first ‘composer in residence,’ was modern opera at its best. Both performers played the piece really well and it was touching, thought-provoking and very moving. It was excellently staged and directed too.
All in all, it sometimes takes events such as this to fully appreciate how lucky we are to have subsidised arts to enlighten, delight and savour. And that companies of this quality consider it important to get off the beaten track to spread the word. Opera can sometimes be highbrow, stuffy and distant. This was not one of those events. The Company set out to reach the audience and hopefully inspire others to follow in their path to an artistic career. All of the cast were very engaging and poked fun at themselves, at each other and some ridiculous opera plots.
Top class performances and a great night out.
Thanks Eleanor Dennis (soprano), Katie Grosset (mezzo-soprano), Duncan Rock (baritone), Nicky Spence (tenor) and the excellent pianist Ruth Wilkinson.