BERON AND THE NON-TRADITIONAL SPACEMAN
Cries for an opera house for Edinburgh seem to have diminished to less than a whimper of late, even though not so much as a sketch plan for a dressing room has materialised. But is the situation really so desperate that the ‘big’ opera at this year’s Festival, Weber’s Oberon in Festival Director Frank Dunlop’s
new production, has to be staged in a ; concert hall? It may seem like it, but
this isn’t actually the case.
Bob Irwin, Technical Director of the Festival, who’s faced with the job of overseeing the transformation of the Usher Hall into opera’s ideal home explains: ‘It doesn’t have the facilities of a normal theatre, but
, that’s exactly the reason why Frank
Dunlop wants to go in there. He wants to go in because you can get a more intimate performance in the Usher hall by combining the staging and orchestra in one place — rather than the staging being distanced
3; from the audience by musicians in ‘ between.’ (In this case the musicians
being the first-rate J unge Deutsche Philharmonic.)
Although Irwin doesn’t like to label the technical aspect of such a
; mammoth metamorphosis a i problem (‘There are always 5 technical problems. ’), it’s obviously
a great challenge. ‘It’s difficult getting the lighting right because the Hall’s geared for concert
’ performances.’ Accommodatinga
big company, an orchestra of 70, the Edinburgh Festival Chorus plus
i soloists, is also difficult. ‘The
; facilities at the Usher Hall have
7 never been very good, even for
5 concerts, when you have conductors
and soloists sharing dressing rooms. The set had to be very cleverly designed by Carl Toms to accommodate the limitations of the Usher Hall stage. There’s a lack of depth, no wings. . .’ - ‘What’s wrong with Grindlay Street and Lothian Road?’ quips Sheila Colvin, Dunlop’s Associate Director. ‘The trouble with operas is that they have singers in them’, Irwin remarks, explaining yet another of this production’s unique technical characteristics. You’d think that once the set was up, it was up, but no, ‘It would be too much for the soloists to sing several shows in a row, so we have to alternate Oberon with concerts so they can rest their voices.’ This means that the set for Oberon has to be taken down and everything made to be a concert hall again. It’s all back to the set — ‘a very, very clever design that tries to incorporate the orchestra within the drama.’ Frank Dunlop is, of course, known for his use of unlikely areas for his productions eg the University Quad at Old College where Medea is being staged, or Haymarket Ice Rink. As Sheila Colvin puts it -— ‘He’s a strictly non-traditional spaceman.’ Oberon uses the original libretto, in English, by James Robinson Planche
and the distinguished cast, conducted by Seiji Ozawa includes Elizabeth ConnelJ, Benjamin Luxon, Philip Langridge and Peter Lindroos, with the Edinburgh Festival Chorus. The orchestra is the J unge Deutsche Philharmonic. After Edinburgh , two more performances of this production of
Oberon will be given at the Alteoper, Frankfurt and BBC TV will be recording it for transmission in the Autumn. (Carol Main) Oberon, Festival production, Usher Ha11226 4001, 10, 12, I4Aug. 8pm. £5-£18. 50 depending on seats and performance. [EIF]
The most musically inspired evening of the festival is quite likely to be one of the concerts given by lntl-Illlmanl with Paco Pena and John Williams. Williams is well known for his guitar excursions from the classical discipline and Paco plays the Spanish guitar in a related tradition to the Chileans. lntl-Illlmanl, named after a sacred mountain in South America, have an astonishing and sophisticated ability on a whole range of classical and folk instruments. The coup which overthrew Allende caught them on a European tour which has been extended over a decade and expanded to include the whole world. Their music is the expression of a democratic Chile and their Edinburgh concerts have always been outstanding.
Rumillajta can go home and
regularly return to La Paz, the capital of Bolivia, and at 14,000ft the highest city in the world. Consumption of their music has risen dramatically over the last few years. Rumillajta have been regular visitors to Edinburgh and this year they have a new guitarist in Carlos Cardero. They even make their own instruments, the zamponas, charango, quena, bombo and chajchas and play music from many areas in South America and from pre-Spanish times, to invoke the spirit of the Incas. Inti-Illimani, Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street (venue 3) Tickets: 226 242 7. 25—27 Aug, 9pm. £5.50; Inti-Illimani with John Williams and Paco Pena, Assembly Rooms (as above) 28—30 Aug. 9pm. £7.50; Rumillajta, Assembly Rooms (as above) 9—23 Aug (not 12th) 11.45am, £3.50 and 24Aug, 3.45pm, £3.50.
MUSIC OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT
The Scottish Enlightenment, theme of this year’s Edinburgh Festival, was an age of great philosophy, architecture, poetry, the sciences, ecomomics and law. It’s just too bad
' for a Festival with a high musical
content that there isn’t very much Scottish music from the Age to fit into this theme. However, the Festival takes a fascinating side-track, selecting works by European composers, inspired by James Macpherson’s 18th century translations of poems by the 3rd century bard, Ossian. Fingal, of Mendelssohn’s Fingal’s Cave fame, was an Ossian hero, but the familiar
Overture is the only orchestral work likely to be known in the SNO‘s Enlightenment Celebration. Normally a popular opener, its place in the concert on 17 August is taken by Niels Gade’s Echoes of Ossian and later on in the programme Ossian features again in Ossian’s Dream from ‘Les Bardes, ou Ossian’ by Jean Francois Lesueur, one time music director for Napoleon, who was seemingly behind this work. Ossian was also the inspiration for Weber’s opera Oberon (see panel).
Perhaps the more enlightened of the Enlightenment concerts is that being given by a Scottish group of musicians, Orpheus Caledonlus. Marches and Airs by General Reid, whose legacy to Edinburgh includes a library and a concert hall, or the first modern performance of the Concerto Gross in F by the Italian Barsanti, who lived and worked in 18th century Edinburgh, promise interesting listening. So too does the Scottish Early Music Consort’s miscellany of vocal and instrumental music with Scottish associations from 1680 to 1825. The great word-setter, Schubert, features prominently in a recital by David Wilson-Johnson of lieder inspired by Scott and (no free tickets for guessing who else) Ossian. (Carol Main) Music of the Enlightenment, Orpheus Caledonius, Queen’s Hall, South Clerk Street (venue 72) 11 Aug, 11am. £2—£6.50. Tickets: 225 5756. [F]
Scottish Early Music Consort,
Queen 's Hall, South Clerk Street (venue 72)13 Aug. 11am. £2—£6.50. Tickets: 668 2019. [F]
Music from the Enlightenment,
SNO, Usher Hall, Grindlay Street. I 7 Aug. 8pm. £5. Tickets: 225 5 756.
FESTIVAL OF BRITISH YOUTH ORCHESTRAS
Accounting for a hefty chunk of the medley of creative talents at this year’s festival is the National Association of Youth Orchestras and its Festival of British Youth Orchestras. Over 1600 young musicians will pass through the doors of the Central Hall at Tollcross (the murky building running along Earl Grey Street, with an amazingly fresh and shiny inside) to give almost 30 concerts as part of the Fringe. Programmes are imaginatively devised to keep players and audiences happy and generaly the standard is high.
Now in its 7th year, this self-contained festival has grown too big for its original title, visiting youth orchestras coming from as far aﬁeld as Montreal and San Diego, with the Swiss Youth Symphony Orhcestra giving the Opening Concert in aid of St Columba’s Hospice.. (Carol Main) Festival of British Youth Orchestras, National Association of Youth Orchestras, Central Hall, Tollcross (venue 100) 9—30Aug (not Suns) 7.30pm. £2.50 (£1.50; Children, Students, UB40s Free) Tickets: 229 7937. [F]
32 "I 'he List 8 - 21 August