Gala Concert with Scottish Opera - Review


By Garry Fraser


For half a century, Perth Festival of the Arts has been delivering a mix of comedy, classical music, jazz, opera and theatre to thousands of concert-goers. It has put the city firmly on the cultural map and regularly attracts the finest performers from across the globe. It was fitting that Scottish Opera were given the honour of opening this year’s festival, the 50th, as they had performed two operas during the very first festival in 1972. For opera fans, Perth’s Concert Hall on Thursday night was the place to be.

Such an august occasion needed some sort of fanfare to herald another exciting and varied few days in the Fair City. Shostakovich’s Festive Overture has no operatic connections, but the word “festive” meant it fitted the occasion perfectly. As a curtain raiser, it’s ideal. Full of vigour, full of excitement, full of colour. 

The opening of the second half DID have an operatic connection, Wagner’s overture to Die Meistersingers. Another excellent intro, and although the two overtures didn’t have anything in common, they did showcase the excellent Orchestra of Scottish Opera. As did the Intermezzo from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut and the excerpt from Humperdink’s Hansel and Gretel.

Then it was up to the five soloists to weave a wonderful operatic web. It was a joy to witness this quintet of established and emerging artists – sopranos Eleanor Dennis and Catriona Hewitson, mezzos Catriona Morison and Lea Shaw and baritone Jonathan McGovern – delivering arias, duets or trios of extremely high quality. There was versatility too as the programme took us from the darkness of Massenet to the lightness of Mozart via the passion of Puccini and the enchantment of Humperdinck.

What I liked particularly about the programme was the mix of “pot boilers” like La ci darem a mano with the lesser-known works like Puccini’s Edgar and, to a lesser extent, Der Rosenkavalier. Some of the ensemble works are rarely seen out-with the context of their particular opera, but they proved they can easily stand alone in their own right.

Catriona Morrison set the ball rolling with a wonderfully sultry Seguedille from Carmen, before McGovern swaggered onto the stage to deliver an explosive Toreador’s song. He also showed a good grasp of comedy as Papageno as well as passion in the aria from Edgar, a rare stand-along baritone aria. Eleanor Dennis’ Dove Sono and Catriona Hewitson’s O Mio Babbino Caro were also stand-outs with Lea Shaw – not nearly as involved as the others – proving her burgeoning talent with her Mozart and Bizet contributions. You’ve heard of the Fab Four. Well, this was the Fab Five.

Wonderful melodies, exceptional singing and superb musicians. That’s three boxes ticked. A successful start to the festival? Better tick that one too.


Copyright DC Thomson.