There is a real intensity and sense of purpose to both these two new operas, created as the culmination of Scottish Opera’s Five:15 - Operas Made in Scotland programme.
Huw Watkins and David Harsent’s adaptation of a Thomas Hardy short story, In The Locked Room, finds conflict between poetry and money as a couple rent a room in a holiday home in Sussex. Ruby Hughes’ slightly fraught, dreamy Ella sees an escape here, but Paul Curievici’s Stephen longs to take the frequent fast trains back up to London to conclude his business deals.
It’s a tight telling of the tale, with Watkins’ music emphasising that in poetry - “it’s love, sex and death” - all is art. Ella’s impregnation by doomed poet Pascoe (Hakan Vramsmo), whose permanent room in the house is kept locked by lascivious landlady Susan (fabulously sung by Louise Winter), proves poetry’s fecundity over Stephen’s money-fuelled, forced coupling.
Slightly overlong, but wracking up the intensity, Stuart MacRae and Louise Welsh’s Ghost Patrol is set in the bar of a military town after some future war. From the opening fight - expertly directed by Raymond Short - where bar owner Alasdair (James McOran-Campbell) discovers thief Sam (Nicholas Sharratt) was in his platoon when they were both in the army, there is a sense of foreboding.
If McOran-Campbell and Sharratt quickly create a whole history of friendship and camaraderie between Alasdair and Sam, Jane Harrington as Alasdair’s girlfriend Vicki foretells the whole plot with one flaming glance at Sam. She creates assumptions which director Matthew Richardson then plays with and subverts to telling and, ultimately, heart-rending effect.
A pair of mini operas that prove how satisfying and productive the Five:15 process has been.