It was great to be in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh on Thursday to hear the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra at the start of their UK tour. And what a concert! Delius, Grieg – with a poised and powerful performance of the piano concerto by Christian Idle Hadland – and a storming account of Strauss´s Ein Heldenleben. Perhaps orchestras always play their best on tour – there´s the frisson of excitement to be in a new city and an atmospheric grand hall – and certainly both BPO Music Director Andrew Litton and the orchestra´s engagement with the music was compelling. For the Edinburgh audience, albeit on this occassion well supported by a robust posse of ex-patriot Norwegians and other lusty Nordic enthusiasts, the powerful music-making brought surprise: no-one, one suspects, expected such a moving, energetic, thrilling and startlingly elegant performance from little Bergen, better known over the North Sea for fjords, cute houses and a Hanseatic past. Let´s get the opera over there soon for more surprises.
The picture is taken after the show, with Jay Marshall, former Chairman of Dallas Opera, and Andrew Litton.
Then to Britten´s Midsummer Night´s Dream the following night, to explore a fantastic collaboration between Scottish Opera and the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, where the two combine – more inter-twine – to build an annual production between professionals and young artists. It´s a great partnership, where singers, designers, production, technical teams build a show together in a mutually inspirational process. The young cast – RCS opera students with a couple of SO´s ’emerging artists’ – were startlingly good. This is not easy music, but their stagecraft and their voices were impressive. Director Olivia Fuchs (who worked with us for Bergen National Opera´s OperaFest recently) led us into a fantastical world of tricks and gentle magic. And all credit to Puck, who sparkled in this intriguing dreamland.
Back in chilly Bergen, the weekend brought total immersion in chorus casting and much mulling over production around next Autumn´s youth opera production, All about my Family . Lots to discuss, not enough workshop time, orchestration issues… business as usual. But excitement too, as singers begin to arrive today for the start of our Janacek production Cunning Little Vixen. We begin this afternoon. It´s a small Scottish/Russian/Swedish/Israeli/English invasion all set to mix with Norwegian artists. Great – we love these international collissions. Rory Macdonald conducts – my first encounter with him was as a foxcub in the the beautiful old David Pounteney production for Scottish Opera (currently in revival at Wesh National). Rory was originally cast as the frog but says his jumping wasn´t sufficiently virtuosic. We hope that the Bergen frog, Mattias Skrede, is working on his hops.