Classical review: Scottish Opera Highlights Tour, Livingston

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SCOTTISH Opera’s annual Opera Highlights tour opened in Livingston on Tuesday, and over the coming weeks this transportable troupe of four singers and a piano will travel the length and breadth of Scotland, presenting a variety-style package of operatic snippets in locations that full-blown operas never reach.

Scottish Opera Highlights Tour- Howden Park Centre, Livingston

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The theme is love, so just about any opera is a rich source of arias and ensembles. There’s every style you could think of, including Handel, Haydn, Mozart, Massenet, Bizet to Britten, and also such obscure names as Giacomo Orefice (whose opera Chopin features) and Richard Heuberger.

The trick, of course, is to piece this musical miscellany smoothly and dynamically together, achieved here with complete lack of fuss and pretention. Full marks to the young singers – soprano Sarah Power and baritone Andrew McTaggart (both Scottish Opera Emerging Artists), alongside mezzo Maire Flavin and tenor Paul Curievici – who gel like a team who’ve been together all their lives, thanks to Lissa Lorenzo’s minimalist, quickfire stage direction and Claire Haslin’s super-efficient musical direction from the piano.

As well as some old favourites – Handel’s Lascia ch’io Pianga from Rinaldo, We’re called Gondolieri from The Gondeliers, or the famous duet from Bizet’s The Pearl Fishers – such lesser-known gems as Tarquinius’ Aria from Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia and Gareth Williams’ highly imaginative Until the Glass Shattered, specially written for this tour, take us beyond the usual operatic expectations. Never a dull moment.

Seen on 24.02.14

l On tour until 5 April