Opera Double Bill

RCS, Glasgow

Kelvin Holdsworth

four stars

THE ROYAL Conservatoire of Scotland cannot be accused of choosing safe crowd-pleasers on the basis of this double bill.

Darius Milhaud’s version of Orpheus and Eurydice’s love life, Les Malheurs d'Orphée, feels as though someone wrote a long plot and then threw away all the scenes that could explain what was going on. Musically, however, things were far less confused with Alex Gusev giving a compelling account of the title role. An utterly beautiful funeral procession ends the second short act as a group of animals carry Eurydice to her grave singing a lament. Orpheus died well too, set upon by his dead lover’s three sisters carrying respectively a whip, a chord and a pair of scissors. Notwithstanding these three weapons one suspected that he might in fact have died of a slight sense of bewilderment.

The more substantial work Le Vin Herbé by Frank Martin was a breath-taking discovery. This chamber oratorio taking on the Tristan and Isolde myth looked sparse with just some wooden boxes and a large sheet for the sail of a boat. Electric choral singing characterised this production from the start. Julia Daramy-Williams shone as the doomed Isolde amongst a strong cast.

Kally Lloyd-Jones directs with the knowledge that the slightest intake of breath or turn of a hand can impart utter tragedy.

This was opera for those who can cope with a night out where there’s never any risk that one would go home whistling a happy tune. However, it showed exactly what good singing can do in an empty space, filling the stage with doomed lovers and a heart-breaking sense of loss.