Fringe Classical

Miranda Heggie

The Diary of Anne Frank

The Space @ Venue 45, Old St Paul’s Church

Five stars

The Descent O’ Orpheus Tae the Underwarl

Lauriston Halls

Three stars

National Youth Choir of Scotland

St Giles Cathedral

Four stars

WRITTEN in 1968 by the Russian composer Grigory Frid, The Diary of Anne Frank is a one act monodrama for solo soprano and a poignant, yet surprisingly uplifting piece, with a message which is as relevant today as it was at the end of the Second World War. Soprano Polly Ott is a fantastic communicator, simultaneously radiating the exuberance and vulnerability of a young teenage girl, with an alluring voice and perfect annunciation throughout. Cypriot pianist Stavroula Thoma played the piano reduction of Frid’s chamber orchestral score with slick precision, bringing a vast array of colour to Frid’s atonal harmonies. With simple staging, director Sebastian Ukena’s production for About Turn Theatre Company very much shows that sometimes less is more; glowing black and white portraits of children who have fallen victim to genocide around the world appear like a candle-lit vigil on the almost empty stage, compounding the ongoing tragedies of conflict in a beautifully effective manner.

Runs until 27th August (not Sundays)

HAVING fused the Scots language with a number of operatic productions since their inception in 2014, Ayrshire Opera Experience brought to this year’s Fringe a production of Marc-Antoince Charpentier’s 17th century opera La descente d'Orphée aux enfers or The Descent O’ Orpheus Tae The Underwarl as it is known in this new, Scots production. Set in a circus, the loud, colourful costumes are certainly striking, but feel a little odd set against a pretty sparse stage. Chris Waddell’s translation of the libretto is clever and sometimes quite funny (Prosperine, the queen of the underworld’s "celestial beauty" translating as "heivenly brawness"), though sadly much of the time the singers’ diction wasn’t clear enough to be picked up by the audience.

Accompanied on electric piano by Stephen Cowan, he made the most of the instrument, although its limitations were apparent. Tenor and Creative Director David Douglas was convincing in the role of Orpheus, while Colleen Nicoll as Euridice gave a very attractive performance.

BRINGING two very different choral masses to the beautiful and atmospheric surroundings of St Giles’ cathedral, the National Youth Choir of Scotland gave a pair of sterling performances on Saturday evening. Singing Karl Jenkins’ The Armed Man: A Mass for Peace NYCoS Scotland, a choir made up of slightly younger members who perform when the main NYCoS choir are on tour, presented a moving rendition of this work, under the baton of Mark Evans. Jenkins’ piece celebrates many creeds and cultures, with texts from Christian and Muslim traditions as well as poetry by Kipling, Dryden and Tennyson. Hearing an Islamic call to prayer sang from the pulpit of a Presbyterian church felt very special, a symbol of the religious inclusion, diversity, and ultimately peace which the work advocates.

The main National Youth Choir of Scotland then gave a stirring performance of Mozart’s requiem, singing with a richer, more mature sound than the previous choir, but not without a sparky youthful vigour. Conducted by Christopher Bell, the Dies Irae had a fiery, almost alarming energy, while the Benedictus was still and calming, with a gorgeous blend of voices from the solo quartet. Organist Christopher Nickol accompanied both choirs, bringing out a splendid throng of tones and textures from the cathedral’s 1992 Rieger organ.