I suppose I really only have myself to blame for this one. At the start of the year, I blithely declared that I was going to focus on writing about art specifically, and performing arts – theatre, dance, classical music – more generally. So obviously after a reasonably healthy start to the year – some ballet, an opera, two classical concerts, and a couple of art exhibits – lockdown happened and i couldn’t go and see anything no matter how much I wanted to. Until this weekend. Almost exactly six months since I’d last seen any live music – I’d won tickets to the BBC Scottish Symphony and spent all that week expecting a phone call that the gig was being cancelled – I was back at Eden Court seeing some opera.
Scottish Opera are currently touring three condensed operas around Scotland and performing them out of doors. (Covering a wide range of potential audiences with Song of the Clyde to introduce younger audiences to opera, a light opera in the form of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Gondoliers and a more traditional opera in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.) A potentially risky move, I thought when I saw it announced, as September in Scotland and the Highlands in particular could go either way for an outdoor show. (I only ended up attending myself due to a last minute cancellation and deciding that even if it rained it was only half an hour, how wet could I really get?!) But they were in luck, last weekend they hit Inverness just as Summer gave one last hurrah, so it was in fact glorious weather to watch an outdoor show. I’m not sure how it works elsewhere, but here in Inverness the show took place in the car park behind Eden Court, using as a stage, the truck that normally appears full of props and scenery whenever the opera’s in town. Attendees showed their digital tickets on arrival, collected their stools and were guided to the appropriate coloured ‘pod’ – really an appropriately coloured hoop on the ground – blue for two people, yellow for four, scattered about a couple of metres apart and there we sat in the sunshine.
The condensed format of the opera made it perfect lunchtime viewing, half an hour of all the best tunes and jokes from a Gilbert and Sullivan production was just unadulterated charm. The cast consists of five performers, one narrator, two musicians and two singers, and they certainly showcased their respective skills and versatility – there was pathos and comedy, joy and rage, everything you could ask for in an afternoon’s entertainment. Well, maybe ice cream, I presume there was good reason that there was no snack concession on the go, but I did feel they missed a trick there.
So if you happen to be in one of the many places around Scotland that they’ve still to visit, then I highly recommend taking a punt on one of the shows, even if the weather is looking less than stellar, the sheer joy of the return to live in person performance more than compensates for getting a little damp at the mini-opera, just bring your brolly, and maybe also your inner child.