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Opera Highlights, Regal Community Theatre, Bathgate

Continuing its 50 year celebrations, Scottish Opera is again bringing opera to the community spaces and far-flung isles of Scotland.

The programme is a well thought-out one, and celebrates the diversity of shows the company has performed over the years. Reminiscences about mishaps in the Theatre Royal and other anecdotes provide a sort-of framework for an entertaining evening.

Tenor Nicky Spence found it difficult not to steal the show from his fellow performers (soprano Eleanor Dennis, mezzo Katie Grosset and baritone Duncan Rock). His charisma and trademark twinkle on Kurt Weill's Lonely House, from Street Scene, produced whooping and gruff chants of "Brilliant, son!" from the crowd. An earlier excerpt from Die Fledermaus closed the first half by offering light relief after the more sober Puccini, Verdi and Handel.

Dennis's singing of Oh Pale Blue Dawn from Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel was breathtaking, while A Regular, Royal Queen from The Gondoliers made sure the Gilbert and Sullivan fans were on-side.

The world premiere of Hand by Gareth Williams (Scottish Opera's composer in residence) opened the second act, with performances by Dennis and Spence that were stirring vocally and in their interpretation of Johnny McKnight's text. Although there were a few first-night stumbles, they did not detract from the slightly hand-knitted, Scottish-Opera-laid-bare, back-to-basics approach of piano, singers and props.

Directed by Adrian Osmond, this is a show that is sure to become increasingly entertaining over the rest of its run. In its most potent form, the ensemble's rousing Make Our Garden Grow (from Candide) was clearly sowing the seeds for the next 50 years of grassroots opera talent in Scotland.

HHHH

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