Scotland - if one speaks of the Scottish Executive and Arts Council - seems to think opera is for toffs. After years of underfunding, Scottish Opera, with its brilliant history, will be forced off stream for a year. The chorus has its marching orders. When it returns, it may have a different name, it may be part-time, it may have no orchestra. It has lost control of its home, the Theatre Royal. Its two leaders - Sir Richard Armstrong, the music director, and Christopher Barron, the chief executive - have jumped ship.
That same Theatre Royal was sold out for Fidelio. The audience, presumably made up of Scots (I couldn't see any toffs), shouted and clapped their approval. It was the last full staged production by this great company before all slides into uncertainty, unless you count their Death of Klinghoffer at this year's Edinburgh Festival.
This was a revival of Tim Albery's production of Beethoven's great work, first seen 11 years ago. I thought it had been junked, but here it was in all its intelligence and sharpness. Albery returned to direct, the designs were revamped by Simon Daw, and Peter Mumford pepped up the lighting.
The vaguely modern setting (Marzelline ironing, Pizarro in a suit) did not detract. Much of the action was framed in a window in the proscenium, with a view of several rooms. Scenes could change suddenly: Leonore's "Komm, Hoffnung" was sung in front of a dawn vista of woodland, the joyful duet of Leonore and Florestan was backed by a glowing field of flowers. There was a fantasy, a simplicity about all of this.
The cast were excellent. The Florestan was Ian Storey, whose fresh-minted tenor voice mesmerised from the first note. Peter Sidhom was the resolute Pizarro. Elizabeth Byrne was vivid, if a bit one-track as Leonore; the genial Rocco was Ulrich Dünnebach. Sarah Redgwick was a fluent and lyric Marzelline.
Armstrong conducted with purpose, though there was drift in the ensemble. First-night nerves? The chorus sang and acted with utter commitment. Scots ought to delight in the class of this company. Maybe they don't deserve it.
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