Music review: Scottish Opera: Silvano

Silvano doesn’t get much mention in the history books. Mascagni wrote it five years after his single most famous opera, Cavalleria Rusticana. It never took on, lacking the fast-moving thrills and spills of the earlier work. Theatrically, I guess, it belongs in sleepy hollow. But there’s merit in its music, which made this concert performance by Scottish Opera probably the best way to experience it.

As the wretched Matilde, Emma Bell stole the show
As the wretched Matilde, Emma Bell stole the show

City Halls, Glasgow ****

It’s yet another operatic love triangle. While Silvano is on the run accused of smuggling, his fiancé Matilde has been passing the lonely nights with his friend Renzo. Silvano returns expecting all to be as it was with Matilde. Renzo is discarded but isn’t having it. Matilde is caught in the middle. Renzo reveals the infidelity. Silvano kills him and flees again into exile.

Sunday’s cast - admirably off-score, suggestively costumed and free to act across front stage - were committed and convincing enough to convey the emotive spirit and appeal of Mascagni’s mellifluous score.

As Matilde, Emma Bell stole the show, her voluptuous singing, not least in her final plea for Renzo to release her, capturing the pain and angst of her wretched character. Tenor Alexey Dolgov brought heroic stamina to the title role, David Stout’s Renzo oozed selfless malice, Leah-Marian Jones invested a steely warmth in Rosa, all with incisive comment from Scottish Opera Chorus.

Music director Stuart Stratford’s bubbling belief in the work paid off, his orchestra infectiously responsive. Well worth an airing? Yes, even if the music is more craft than clout.