An Evening of Opera Classics at the Grand Synagogue, Salisbury Road, Edinburgh on Sunday 31st March delivered exactly what it promised, with wonderful performances from singers and musicians from Classical Musicians Scotland.
In the intimate setting of the Grand Synagogue, this was a very up-close performance with the singers right there in front of the audience, not up on a stage, so there was no room for error. Emily Mitchell (Soprano), Christine Sjolander (Mezzo), Douglas Nairne (Baritone) and Christian Schneeberger (Tenor) backed by the eleven piece orchestra led by Alistair Digges, sang solos, duets and ensemble pieces from a selection of some of the best loved operas, including La Traviata, Carmen, Le Boheme and Die Fledermaus, and were joined by producer and presenter Daisy Henderson for the opening and closing numbers. My all-time favourite opera is Carmen and a particular highlight of the evening, for me, was the Toreador Song, performed by Douglas Nairne with just the right air of arrogance as bullfighter Escamillo.
While the singing and musicianship was of a high standard which should satisfy any opera fan, this evening was also a great introduction to anyone new to opera, as Daisy Henderson gave an introduction to each song, explaining which character was singing it and where it fitted into the opera’s story. A special mention has to be given to Christian Schneeberger, who joined tonight’s event at very short notice to stand in for Roger Paterson who is unwell, and who gave an exceptional performance. I wonder if I was the only one to notice the look of relief on Christian’s face when he finished his first solo performance from The Elixir of Love to huge applause?
As befits an opera gala, we had performances of tragedy, comedy, longing, and the inevitable confusion over swopped identities. The best comedy of the evening, however, belonged to Daisy Henderson and Emily Mitchell with their performance of Rossini’s “Duetto buffo di due gatti” (Duet for Two Cats), whose lyrics consist entirely of the word “meow”. Daisy and Emily’s interpretation was of two “catty” women at a cocktail party and their facial expressions and mannerisms as they were forced to acknowledge each other were a sheer delight.
All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable evening, and thanks must be given to the Edinburgh Hebrew Congregation, who hosted the event in their beautiful building, for their warm and friendly welcome.
Review by Lisa Sibbald