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Opera Sparks review at Galvanizers, Glasgow – ‘bright and inventive’

Scene from Opera Sparks by Connect/ Photo: Julie Howen Scene from Opera Sparks by Connect/ Photo: Julie Howen
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Scottish Opera celebrates the 10th anniversary of its youth project, the Connect Company, with performances of three short new commissions from the winners of the Opera Sparks competition in 2017.

Designer Karen Tennent has transformed the ex-warehouse space of Galvanizers nightclub into a birch scrub forest. Wood chip on the floor and the smell of smoke give the immersive seating – benches round a traverse performing area – an extra hint of woodland for Henry McPherson’s Maud. It is a cautionary fairytale in which Maud (the clear and strongly voiced Evan Spence) finds a tiny baby that turns out to be a fearsome dragon.

McPherson hints at greater depths to his libretto that could easily make a longer work. The Connect Chorus deliver his somewhat abrasive score with real clarity and strong atmosphere, while immediately proving their acting chops under Olivia Fuchs’s direction, transforming from fairy beings to frightened villagers and the ravenous beast itself.

Fear is the theme of Little Black Lies, Helen Gron’s story of Sophie, alone and forgotten in a city awash with war. Simon Wilkinson’s lighting transforms the space into her hiding place. Hazel McBain has a stellar tone in her highest register as Sophie and, although lacking clarity, she conveys a real sense of paranoia, questioning the reality of what Sophie believes.

There is a stronger melodic theme to Lewis Murphy’s Then to the Elements, Laura Attridge’s story of Anna who creates a child in her computer. With Christensen returning as Anna, Murphy has the Connect Chorus deliver an unsettlingly eerie version of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, in a cleverly twisting production.

Opera Sparks shows a bright and inventive future for opera – but also shows the verve and finesse of the younger creatives it already has at its disposal.

 

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Verdict
Dark themes abound in a Scottish Opera showcase for young composers and librettists
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