Scottish Opera Production Studios, Glasgow

Keith Bruce


FOLLOWING on from Rachel Drury’s pioneering BabyO in bringing opera to the pre-school and even pre-ambulant audience, this collaboration with Phelim McDermott and Improbable Theatre to a new score by former composer-in-residence Lliam Paterson is a complete delight on every level.

First and foremost it unequivocally succeeds in the unlikely chief aim of bringing opera to infants. By all accounts my 11.30am crowd was more attentive than Saturday’s earlier house, but this is introduced as “free-range” opera, so whether you engage by just watching or are bold enough to crawl up to explore the colourful set and props is up to you. Just don’t interfere with the array of instruments in the busy hands of cellist Laura Sergeant and percussionist Stuart Semple.

The quartet of performers are completed by baritone Timothy Connor and soprano Charlotte Hoather, and they have a proper contemporary score to sing and a costumed narrative to relate of the bird Uccelina, the egg that hatches to reveal Pulcino, and how she raises him until it is time for him to fly the nest.

Paterson’s score is demanding and very clever, with nods to the operatic canon that parents can enjoy and a libretto that is a clever mix of the evocatively wordless, real Italian, and knowing pastiche (including, of course, the birdcatcher in Mozart’s Magic Flute). There is even an audio version of a printed programme supplied during the interval.

All four onstage are excellent, but Hoather in particular is exceptional, singing beautifully and engaging with her audience every moment of the performance and beyond. She picks her way carefully between the rug-rats, eyeballing individuals with a vocabulary of expressions as eloquent as her sonic range, which takes in chirping and purring as naturally as coloratura.

Already seen at the Manchester International Festival and the Edinburgh Fringe, there are Glasgow shows until November 5 and a worldwide audience surely there for the taking after that.