IT’S good, now and again, to get up close to opera by witnessing this extravagant art form in the raw, its excesses stripped to the bone. That’s the principle behind Scottish Opera’s perennial Highlights Tour, a long established initiative that takes opera to Scotland’s more out-of-the-way venues with only four singers, a pianist, a basketful of props and disparate lucky bag of operatic excerpts.
Scottish Opera: Opera Highlights, Village Theatre, East Kilbride ****
This latest touring programme is again a quick-fire confection of arias and ensembles, from 18th century Handel and Mozart to 20th century Britten and Dove, usefully threaded together by a narrative “in the style of a picaresque novel” by show director Sara Brodie. Needless to say, Brexit and Trump both get a mention.
But it’s the bristling energy of the cast, and the enthusiasm and stamina of pianist/music director Elizabeth Rowe, that load this theatrical menagerie with fun and fizz.
The handsome baritone of Harry Thatcher, solemnly passionate in Wagner’s Evening Star aria from Tannhäuser, becomes dangerously alluring in Offenbach’s “Scintille, diamond”. Tenor Tom Smith finds equal comfort in the Baroque purity of Handel as in the mystical enchantment of Rutland Boughton’s Faery Song from The Immortal Hour.
Mezzo soprano Heather Ireson matches a stylish “Che faró senza Euridice” with a beautiful standstill moment as the Minkswoman in Jonathan Dove’s Flight. Soprano Lucy Anderson throws up a brilliantly unhinged Blanch Dubois from André Previn’s A Streetcar Named Desire.
On tour around Scotland until 16 March