Some members of the audience (female mainly) were indeed beautifully turned out for the occasion, but formal dress was not required unless you were actually performing. And company favourite Leah-Marian Jones, a soloist in Cavalleria Rusticana, would have won frock of the night if there had been a prize.
However, on the road to the opera company's Golden Jubilee, I'd managed to convince myself that not only was the concert performance of the Cav & Pag rather more historically appropriate than it actually was, but also re-imagined the event as some lavish red carpet gala with bunting and flaming beacons down Candleriggs and liveried flunkies relieving gentlemen of their top hats and canes and ladies of their wraps at the hall's entrance. I wonder where on earth I'd acquired that notion? Maybe it was something in the air. As general director Alex Reedijk is a chap who favours casual attire – and I believe is quite keen to see opera-going become more casually attired – it seems highly unlikely, now I ponder on it.
However, I think my subconscious meant well. I wanted the celebration of Scotland's national opera company to be a glitzy occasion. This newspaper's chosen way to mark it was to seek an interview with the widow of the company's founding dynamo, which Lady Veronica Gibson was gracious enough to give. The vision and energy of her husband was certainly lauded on Tuesday night, in speeches from the stage by company chairman Colin McClatchie and Culture Minister Fiona Hyslop, and I am sure she herself would have nothing but praise for the event, but I couldn't help feeling that Sir Alex was sold a little short.
By any objective measurement, the 50th anniversary of Scottish Opera should have been a major date on the cultural calendar. While it fell on a day when there was significant competition, it is fair to point out that Scotland was less carried away with the Royal celebrations than elsewhere and might well have welcomed the opportunity to be excited about something of its own. This concert performance of two Italian one-act operas from the last decade of the 19th century, a double bill which has only been seen by the company in a medium-scale touring version 13 years ago (perversely played then as Pag & Cav), was surely less lavish than the occasion demanded.
For a start, it was wrong that the birthday bash was not in the company's home venue, Glasgow's Theatre Royal, with its painting and bust of its founder. It might have been a gala night of the 1940s-set Tosca, one of the most successful, revived and sold-on productions in the history of the company, one which was originally conducted by Sir Alex Gibson, and which – it would seem entirely coincidentally – the company has just had out on the road for the umpteenth time.
Alternatively, one might envisage a grander orchestral version of one of the company's Opera Highlights tours with turns from upcoming talent and some of the star names that have passed through its ranks.
Instead, a few enquiries after the show quickly established that this concert had been a very hurriedly thrown together affair with very limited and sporadically scheduled rehearsal time. The signs were up there on stage, with three of the soloists reading their parts for Pagliacci, and what stage business there was being improvised on the hoof. That it worked as well as it did was something of a minor miracle. Music director Francesco Corti's address book had clearly taken a battering to assemble the cast at short notice, and both orchestra members and the ladies and gentlemen of the chorus spoke openly of the paucity of preparation time. Corti himself was terse in regard to the lack of respect shown to some of core repertoire from his homeland. But then he was the only full-time staff employee on the platform, and even that is only true in a restricted sense. What's more, he leaves at the end of next season.