What’s not to like about Scottish Opera’s new Sunday afternoon series, called Opera in Concert?
Theatre Royal, Glasgow ****
It puts the talents of the Orchestra of Scottish Opera under the spotlight, revives a neglected classic and gets you home in time for tea.
Pietro Mascagni’s L’amico Fritz hasn’t been performed in Scotland for more than a century. After the enormous success of his Sicilian thriller Cavelleria Rusticana, Mascagni came up with something completely different. He deliberately chose the simple story of L’Amico Fritz, about a confirmed bachelor who falls in love, to allow his music to take centre stage.
And it does, to a certain extent. Stuart Stratford, Scottish Opera’s music director, and the orchestra turned in a spirited account of this full-bodied score, providing a sumptuous backdrop for the superb line-up of singers.
Tenor Peter Auty’s impassioned Fritz and his honeyed voice embodies the bel canto tradition. He was well-matched by the impressive soprano Natalya Romaniw as his love interest Suzel. Their cautious interactions in Act 1, when they first meet, catch fire spectacularly in the final act when they confess their love.
Sultry-voiced mezzo Hanna Hipp brought depth to the gypsy Beppo whilst baritone Stephen Gadd was a persuasive, if slightly strained, David, the match-making rabbi. There was solid support from veteran baritone Donald Maxwell and two up and coming singers, tenor Paul Curievici and soprano Hazel McBain.
The packed theatre for the first in this series of four concerts suggests that Scottish Opera is on to a winner here.