Four stars

With bass Jihoon Kim, who had sung in the autumn excursion of this concert to Aberdeen and Inverness, replacing the indisposed Brindley Sherratt, the Central Belt performances of Music Director Stuart Stratford’s deep delve into the later music of Giuseppe Verdi was especially notable for the Scottish Opera debuts of all but one of the singers.

The exception was tenor Peter Auty, who sang the title role in 2019’s concert performance of Puccini’s Edgar and has been seen regularly in Scotland. He had the best of the second half here, as Alfredo in La traviata and Don Alvaro in La forza del destino and made the evening’s most dramatic impression after that of soprano Eri Nakamura.

In the end, though, the night belonged to her, from her first utterance as Desdemona in Otello to her demise as Leonora in La forza. Nakamura’s voice is a superb instrument, capable of soaring to the stratosphere but also richly sonorous at the bottom of her register, and pinpoint accurate at every point across that range.

It is also true that the Japanese singer and the South Korean bass, who trained at the Verdi Conservatory in Milan, had the best Italian diction we heard across the entire evening.

Which is not to say that there was anything deficient in the performances of Auty, baritone Lester Lynch and mezzo Katherine Aitken. The contribution of Edinburgh’s Aitken was restricted to supporting roles, and it was a shame that she was not afforded at least one solo excursion, and Lynch was slow to get going, but impressively dramatic as both Rodrigo in the scenes from Don Carlo and, potentially confusingly for those new to opera, as Don Carlo in La Forza. His best, however, was opposite Nakamura as Alfredo’s father, Germont, in the opening of Act 2 of La traviata.

That excerpt, from what was the best known of the works included, highlighted the difficulties inherent in Stratford’s format for these concerts. Its length meant that there was real tension in the lucid storytelling, but it also contributed to a long night with a good number of the audience deciding they’d had enough after ten o’clock.

A large part of the conductor’s intention is to showcase his on-stage orchestra and its fine soloists, on a par with the singers, but these concert performances of selections from the canons of famous opera composers (Verdi following 2021’s Puccini concert in Dundee’s Caird Hall) are presumably also aimed at those new to opera as much as for regular patrons. This programme was perhaps asking a bit much of them.