Music review: Scottish Opera: Le Villi

Tenor Peter Auty played the wretched Roberto convincingly
Tenor Peter Auty played the wretched Roberto convincingly
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Scottish Opera’s Opera in Concert series is an invaluable contribution to opera performance in Scotland. While economics has put constraints on the company’s full production tally, this initiative provides opportunities for music director Stuart Stratford to present lesser known works in concert that link into the main season, with a decent cast and the Scottish Opera Orchestra centre stage.

Theatre Royal, Glasgow ****

This week’s offering claimed to be the first ever Scottish performance of Puccini’s first stage work, the short opera-ballet Le Villi, a curious but satisfying footnote to the better known La bohème, which the company is currently touring.

Le Villi was the main attraction, though Stratford used its brevity to dangle before us three early Puccini instrumental works as well, as a scene-setting preface: the harmlessly tuneful Prelude Sinfonica in A; the evocative delicacy of Crisantemi; and the effervescent Capriccio Sinfonica, a thematic laboratory for material Puccini would later use in his later operas.

The music was informative, the performances perhaps more routine than inspired, but the mercury rose for the opera itself, a story of love and lives torn apart by temptation. The music is substantive and fertile, from echoes of Parsifal in the introduction to pre-echoes of the rich, expansive lyricism of Puccini’s maturer style.

Karen Slack’s Anna bore a contemplative radiance; Stephen Gadd presented an impassioned father; Peter Auty’s Roberto was convincingly wretched. Stratford’s pacing was both accommodating and fluid. A real treat.