Navigate the Blood – A review by Mark Davey

Jamie MacDougall and Shona Scott Sendall during act one. 25_c46opera01_Jamie_MacDougall_ Shona_Scott_Sendall

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Art mirrored life at Glen Scotia in an operatic family drama set in a distillery which has just won a gold medal.

Last Friday’s smashing five star production, which has sold out across Scotland, lost its way slightly with one flaw.

The clever concept of a rock opera, sung in Polish and Scottish, cried out for some simple staging for the precious moments when the action was on the floor.

Perhaps in a cider mill the necessary apple boxes, to create a temporary stage, would have allowed the audience, further back than the second row, to see the whole show.

Opera, a sung play, is as much about the low level action as the New Opera in Scotland Events’ truly impressive singing from operatic superstars.

Even standing, snapping photographs at the back, it was impossible to see some of the most poignant low level acting.

The operatic quartet of Jamie MacDougall (Robert McCredie), making his third Wee Toon appearance this year, Shauna Scott Sendall (Lena McCredie), Klaudia Korzeniewska (Agata) and Seumas Begg (Elijah), backed by indie rock stars Admiral Fallow could hardly fail to stage a mesmerising musical feast.

Plus the quintet of repetiteur, onstage pianist Laura McIntosh, cellists Sonia Cromarty and Emily de Simone, violinist Agnieszka Opida and Anja Ormiston playing the cello made for a fabulous night’s music.

Artistic director James Robert Carson and designer Alice Hebdon rocked in the rear wings as conductor Chris Swaffer, from a podium in the middle of the audience, led the singing, penned by librettist Siân Evans and score composed by Musical director Gareth Williams.

There will not be many operas that feature warm Kintyre mutton pies from Ifferdale Lamb, served, by the farmer Andrew Gemmill, in every break.

The production played sell-out shows in Glasgow and Oban before moving to Campbeltown, Islay and onto the Highlands.

Perhaps to bring it to a wider audience the cast of distilleries should reassemble with stalls in an opera house.

Audience member Emma Macalister Hall, part of the team at gin distillery Beinn an Tuirc, said: ‘It was an incredible experience from start to finish, fine food and drink aside, the opera itself was astonishing.

‘Raw and intimate with just four cast members and a sparse set.

The subject matter was deeply moving – as well as loss and grief the story touches on modern slavery, that hideous practice that is sadly occurring still.

‘It was a highlight for Su Black and I when Lena sings a poem about the history of gin, including the many nefarious side effects that were so prevalent in the early days of production.’

Nips of Glen Scotia’s Victoriana and double casked, sherry barrel finished malts, warmed singing palettes in the break, listeners hearts and may have found fresh fans for Campbeltown whisky.

Jamie MacDougall and Shona Scott Sendall during act one. 25_c46opera01_Jamie_MacDougall_ Shona_Scott_Sendall

Leone Shaw Tulloch and Marjorie Leighton enjoyed mutton pies during the interval. 25_c46opera05_Leone_Shaw_Tulloch_MarjorieLeighton

There was nearly as much acting from the Glen Scotia staff serving whisky. From left: Hector McMurchy and Iain McAlister pouring drams and author Angus Martin. 25_c46opera07_acting

Admiral Fallow rockers from left: drummer Phil Hague, singer/guitarist Louis Abbot and guitarist Stu Goodall share a nip with distillery manager Iain McAlister. 25_c46opera08_Admiral_Fallow

Shona Scott Sendall – Lena comforts Seamus Begg – Elijah. 25_c46opera03_ Shona_Scott_Sendall_Seumas_Begg

Agata -Klaudia Korzeniewska proved handy with the gin still too. 25_c46opera04_Klaudia_Korzeniewska