Scottish Opera - The Burning Fiery Furnace, St Mary’s, Haddington ****
It was an able, thoroughly convincing production, fittingly one step removed from naturalism, that allowed time and space for Britten’s ritualistic austerity to make its mark. David Stout was assertive and beautifully clear-voiced as the welcoming Abbot, and later also as Nebuchadnezzar’s scheming Astrologer, while Ben Johnson was rather camp and appropriately self-obsessed as the preening King, going on to daub himself in gold to become the idol his subjects worship.
Benedict Nelson, William Morgan and Lancelot Nomura were strong – and immaculately balanced – as the three Israelites.
There were a few sound issues, notably from the eight-strong instrumental ensemble who sounded rather recessed within the circular set, but sparkled seductively during their procession around the church.
Likewise, some of the singers’ lines became inevitably muddied among St Mary’s generous acoustic – supertitles might have helped. Nevertheless, this was a mesmerising, memorable and quietly provocative production – and, we can hope, the start of a fruitful relationship between company and festival. - DAVID KETTLE