Die Dreigroschenoper

Royal Conservatoire of Scotland

Keith Bruce

four stars

THIS weekend the RSNO gives the annual Sir Alexander Gibson Memorial Concerts, and the dynamic musician who also founded professional opera production in Scotland would surely be delighted that the opera studio that also bears his name, within the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, is currently such a crucible of unmissable productions.

Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill would also recognise, and approve, very many of the elements of Caroline Clegg’s vibrant staging of their 1928 masterpiece, The Threepenny Opera, conducted by RCS Head of Opera Philip White. It did not, however, require the conviction of Harvey Weinstein and the current Prime Minister’s recent change in personal circumstances to underline its continuing relevance for a modern audience. Only at the very end of this staging, as small placards are lowered from the flies for members of the cast to hold, does the production explicitly acknowledge that.

Those are rendered in both German and English, and the first thing to say about the performances of these young singers is the uniformly high standard of their diction throughout. As well as the songs — from the scene-setting Mack the Knife onwards a sequence of hook-laden tunes — these young musicians had a great deal of text to learn, and it is as beautifully spoken as it is sung.

There are a range of approaches to the music among the cast, with the women — Wiktoria Wizner’s Mrs Peacham, Emily Hodkinson as Jenny and Lucy Vallis as Lucy Brown — often more “operatic” than the cabaret approach of the men, including Timothy Edmundson as Macheath and Aleksander Myrling’s Tiger Brown. Lea Shaw‘s Polly Peacham and MacArthur Alewei as her father achieve the best balance between those two far-from-exclusive vocal worlds.

Essentially though, this is an ensemble piece and the ensemble playing is this production’s great strength, definitively Brechtian in its backstage, wicker hampers and bentwood chairs milieu and costuming. The ten-piece band is spot-on too, with pairs of brass and reads, batterie of percussion, accordion, banjo and, in a top touch, slide semi-acoustic guitar.

There are performances tomorrow (Wednesday) and Friday