La scala di seta

Theatre Royal, Glasgow

Keith Bruce

four stars

THE Orchestra of Scottish Opera's Sunday afternoon concert series is developing incrementally and irresistibly under the aegis of music director Stuart Stratford, even if his only performance role here was to chat to conductor David Parry and the cast before the overture.

Far from being "merely" musical excursions, this fun and lively early Rossini, The Silken Ladder, was fully realised by Parry and the singers, if only "semi-staged", to use the usual – but actually meaningless – term. With just a big moth-eaten armchair and two lattice screens to hide behind (there is a great deal of covert surveillance in this tale of betrothal and flirtation), the six singers weaved by the players to romp through Rossini's exquisitely-constructed early masterpiece without need of full set and costumes. Some scenes, like the intimate duet immediately after the interval between Katie Bray's teasing and determined Lucilla and Joshua Bloom's lascivious-but-dumb Blansac, were so closely focused as to be all gesture and facial expression, and elsewhere all six singers had fun with show's limitations, particularly Nicholas Lester, whose six foot-plus frame made servant Germano difficult to hide anywhere.

He, Jennifer France – who delighted in the stratospheric vocal lines for Guilia, the lady at the centre of the story – and Christopher Turner, as her guardian Dormont, were the familiar faces, while Bray, Bloom and tenor Luciano Botelho, as Guilia's secret husband Dorvil, were all new faces and all of them surely voices the busy house of opera lovers would love to hear return. The same goes for Parry, who produced a superbly balanced crisp sound from the orchestra, as well as supplying fortepiano continuo.