Amadeus & The Bard

Scottish Opera Production Studio, Glasgow

Mary Brennan


Born in the same week, in the same month - and only three years apart - Mozart and Robert Burns are not just 18th century contemporaries they are, according to writer/director Mary McCluskey, “cosmic brothers’. She makes her case with wit, astute biographical details and a fine array of musical vignettes in Amadeus & The Bard that merrily persuade you that her parallels between the two lives are spot on.

Now it’s highly unlikely that Wolfie (as Mozart was familiarly tagged) ever fetched up in Poosie Nansie’s pub in Mauchline, where this rollicking hour is set - but the folk there seem to know a lot about him, especially mine genial host (actor Andy Clark) who frames the similarities between the two men in terms of their brief life spans, their constancy in love (albeit in Burns’s case with ‘detours’) and their zest for making music. Cue a canny juxtaposition of Mozart arias with songs by Burns, the latter’s poems with scenes from Wolfie’s operas which builds towards an inspired overlap when the supernatural comes into play. Clark’s vivid account of Tam O’Shanter’s encounter with Cutty Sark connects dramatically with Don Giovanni’s descent into Hell. Baritone Arthur Bruce, one of Scottish Opera’s Emerging Artists for 2019/20, has already given us the Don in twinklingly seductive mode but when come-uppance looms, Bruce’s Don gives way to terror - vocally assured throughout while also acting convincingly. Alongside soprano Stephanie Stanway - an expressive Susanna in excerpts from The Marriage of Figaro - are four members of Scottish Opera’s Youth Company who slip in and out of various supporting characters with impressive ease, singing individually and as an ensemble with real panache, whether it’s Burns or Mozart. Shannon Stevenson’s fiddling, like Karen MacIver’s piano playing, whisks us from Ayrshire to Vienna and across musical genres with appropriate class and swagger until a bold, uplifting finale marries “A Man’s a Man For a’ That” with Mozart’s Queen of the Night aria. Ya beauty!