Scottish Opera brings strong emotional heft to the Scottish premiere of Mascagni’s Zanetto and some brightly played comedy in Wolf-Ferrari’s Susanna’s Secret in their semi-staged trip to Haddington as guests of the Lammermuir Festival.
Sinead Campbell-Wallace provides that emotion as Silvia, the courtesan who is tired of loving but who turns up the chance to find a pure and loving relationship with the young minstrel, Zanetto. Once Campbell-Wallace gets past some rather dodgy expressing of angst as physical pain, she captures the nuance of the mature woman who confronts the choice of personal happiness or compromise for the one she loves.
There is strong support from Hanna Hipp as Zanetto, but the reverberating acoustic of St Mary’s doesn’t help the more coloured and emotionally charged passages of Campbell-Wallace’s arias.
Zanetto is more a fragment than a one-act opera and, despite the need for tragedy before comedy, doesn’t programme well ahead of the hour-long Susanna’s Secret. However, Clare Presland as the secretly nicotine-addicted Susanna and Richard Burkhard as her recent husband Count Gill, have great fun with the comedy of both the acting and Wolf-Ferrari’s clever score.
Rosie Parry’s direction is much sharper here. She makes bright comic use of Piran Legg in the non-singing role of the servant Sante – creating a clever ambivalence over whether his true infatuation lies for cigarettes or his new mistress. David Parry conducts the orchestra of Scottish Opera with an appropriately fluid pace throughout. The Mascagni has a strong pastoral feel, but it is Wolf-Ferrari’s magpie-like borrowing and quoting – notably of Debussy – that is most satisfying.