Scottish Opera: The Puccini Collection – Caird Hall

Composed by Giacomo Puccini

Conducted by Stuart Stratford

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Giacomo Puccini. You’d be rather hard-pressed to source a composer of more influence or esteem in the Operatic world; Madame Butterfly, La Boheme, Turandot, La Rondine – the progression from Romanticist composer to verismo, Puccini acclimates his works and styles throughout the decades, his various Operatics being adapted, performed, recorded and idolised for generations. And who better to capture the ever-evolving nature of his genre-defining work, than the often genre-breaking company Scottish Opera.

Structurally, the production weaves across various arias and pieces, while there is no distinct theme other than Puccini himself, Scottish Opera lays the foundations to build upon the momentum of the previous, leaving the more emotional hits from Tosca or Turandot for the second act showstoppers. Scottish Opera understands the works of Puccini, both from a professional standpoint – but also from that of the aficionado, meaning that the traditional arias appear, but so too do the less commonplace. It makes for an enlightening experience, both for regulars and those who may be familiar with the name, but less so the work of Puccini.

Led by the charming, if slightly scatterbrained, conduction of Stuart Stratford, the Scottish Opera orchestra are in their regular professional and safe hands. But also completing hosting duties, Stratford brings an adorable charm that sends ripples of almost child-like glee at Puccini’s work. From introductions to joking with the audience and nearly falling off the podium at least three times – Stratford’s conduction is spectacular in control and organisation, and more fine-tuned than his charismatic, if chaotic, hosting.

But where the magic begins is with the orchestra – shifting and mingling to construct a story in the concert-style performance. The Scottish Opera Orchestra performs an exceptional feat in crafting auditory illusion. From the shuffling of cards to the drips of blood falling from the ceiling – those concerned that the storytelling aspect may be vacant will be hard-pressed not to imagine the scenes directly from the full-blown production.

Sinéad Campbell-Wallace and Wood use the theatricality of the music to their full advantage, turning in perhaps the most evident presence of ‘acting’ along with their singing. Campbell-Wallace projects emotion effortlessly, capturing the ferocity and anguish of Floria Tosca as she desperately sources a way out of the situation whilst still protecting Mario. Wood reacts well as both Scarpia and in the following number Che c’e di Nuovo, Jack? His Baritone is a sumptuous complement to Campbell-Wallace.

Emerging star Catriona Hewitson isn’t one to shun away when standing beside her peers – delivering a touching and a confident solo piece from La Rondine, though her presence may be somewhat overshadowed by the experience and projection whilst next to the likes of Wood, her charisma is still captivating and demonstrates her deserving place on the stage.  

The anxieties and difficulties in opening an Operatic performance are met only by the expectations in delivering a finale to solidify the experience – to do both is almost cruel. And yet, Korean tenor David Junghoon Kim not only accomplishes the prestige of opening the performance to a resounding appreciation but executes a tingling and intimidating Nessum Dorma – legally the only way to close a Puccini collective. Award-Winning and alumni of the Jette Parker Young Programme, Kim’s control and projection are magnificent, finding harmony with the orchestration and maintaining a pitch above the instrumentals where others may lose an ounce of volume to the percussion.

A compendium of greatness, Scottish Opera’s Puccini Collection not only reminds the audience as to why this composer is synonymous with the art form but reminds those of the East Coast just how spectacularly lucky they are to have a venue such as Caird Hall – a perfect setting for Scottish Opera’s love-letter of a show.

For further information relating to The Puccini Collection, please visit Scottish Opera’s website here.

Photo Credit – Fraser Brand

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