Scottish Opera premiere coming to Glasgow

Hye-Youn Lee (Scottish Opera)

THIS autumn, in partnership with Lammermuir Festival, Richard Strauss’ Daphne comes to the Scottish stage for the first time, conducted by Music Director Stuart Stratford and accompanied by The Orchestra of Scottish Opera. 

Continuing the Company’s commitment to exploring and championing lesser known pieces by great composers, this new concert staging of the wistful one-act opera opens at Theatre Royal Glasgow on 5 September, then tours to St Mary’s Parish Church in Haddington on 7 September (as part of Lammermuir Festival), and to the Usher Hall in Edinburgh on 10 December.

These performances of Daphne feature Hye-Youn Lee (Carmen 2023) in the title role, Shengzhi Ren (Don Giovanni 2022), Dingle Yandell (Thérèse 2022), Catriona Hewitson (A Midsummer Night’s Dream 2022), Colin Murray (Carmen 2023), Francis Church (Utopia, Limited 2022), with Brad Cooper and Claire Barnett-Jones making their Company debuts. Also in the cast are Scottish Opera Emerging Artists 2023/24 Ross Cumming, Monwabisi Lindi and Inna Husieva.

Director Emma Jenkins presents a tale of transformation, stolen innocence, and the need to stay true to one’s self, drawing on the unmistakable impressionist aesthetics (and threat) of Germany’s Weimar Republic in the years before the opera was composed. Richard Strauss keenly felt the political and artistic upheaval of this time, and the opera remained one of his personal favourites until his death.

Loosely based on Greek mythology as told in Ovid’s Metamorphoses and Euripides’ The Bacchae, Strauss’ lush, bucolic score showcases The Orchestra of Scottish Opera in a journey of discovery, grief, and ultimately rebirth and release. The young Daphne feels at home nowhere so much as in nature. She loves the trees, sunlight, and flowers, but recoils at the idea of human romance, even when offered selflessly by her childhood friend Leukippos. Soon a mysterious stranger arrives, seeming to bring the power of the sun and to understand Daphne’s kinship with nature. When her father prepares a feast for the return of the gods, which he feels is imminent, Daphne’s otherworldly love comes up against all-too-human jealousies and struggles.

Emma Jenkins said of Daphne: ‘It’s a tricky piece to stage in many ways. Huge swathes of it are static arias in which the protagonists explore and unpack their emotions and inner conflicts – about 20 percent of the opera is Daphne singing solo. However, it is a hugely significant and deeply mystical piece that I think speaks to all of us. Although the story is from classical mythology, its message – the need to stay true to one’s beliefs no matter what the cost – is enduring and universal.’ 

Stuart Stratford said: ‘For every opera company, Daphne will always be a real challenge. The roles of Daphne and Apollo are incredibly taxing, and indeed the orchestral writing sees Strauss at his most virtuosic. The sumptuous, harmonic language is used brilliantly to weave and tell this bucolic story of loss of innocence. It is not to be missed!’ 

Lammermuir Festival’s Artistic Directors Hugh Macdonald and James Waters said: ‘Scottish Opera’s Scottish premiere of Richard Strauss’s spellbinding, late opera Daphne is something any festival would be proud to present. We are delighted to continue our partnership with them which brings rare and brilliant operatic treats to our Festival audiences.’

Lammermuir Festival, established in 2010 by Hugh Macdonald and James Waters, runs from 7 to 18 September in 12 beautiful locations around East Lothian. The festival won the 2017 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Best Concert Series and Festival, and features several of Scotland’s leading ensembles, internationally renowned musicians and exciting new talent. It has a close ongoing relationship with BBC Radio 3.

In March 2024, the Opera in Concert series continues with The French Collection. Few cities saw as much innovation and creative output in opera as Paris did during the 19th century. With three major opera houses and composers from France and further abroad vying for a coveted premiere at one (or more) of them, French opera contains a vast variety of musical and dramatic styles as its artists pushed boundaries on stage and in the pit. Stuart Stratford once again conducts this concert which includes excerpts from some of the era’s grandest and most beloved operas as well as its rarer gems that deserve a second hearing, including works by Georges Bizet, Charles Gounod and Jules Massenet. 

The Orchestra of Scottish Opera captures the vivacity and grandeur of this uniquely brilliant musical epoch, accompanying singers Alexandra Lowe, Catriona Morison, Alok Kumar (Carmen 2023) and Callum Thorpe. This night of romance, drama and beautiful music will be performed in Caird Hall, Dundee and Glasgow Royal Concert Hall.

Daphne and The French Collection are supported by Friends of Scottish Opera and The Scottish Opera Endowment Trust.

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