25 April 2007

Peer Gynt

Last Saturday was the RSNO Chorus’s final concert of the 2006–7 season: a performance of Grieg’s complete incidental music for Ibsen’s poem/play Peer Gynt. What set this apart was that the music was performed in the context of an abridged production of the play itself by actors from the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama.

I found the orchestra’s contribution to the evening quite enthralling: no mean feat given the overexposure of so much of the music. Stephane was conducting and as usual his presence seemed to have an inspirational effect on the rest of us. I am reliably informed that the chorus was also very effective (particularly our dramatic appearance for the first time during the scene in the hall of the Mountain King). Much of what we had to do sounded deceptively simple – ascending and descending scales in unison – but the difficulty lay in the relatively complex rhythms and the fact that we were singing in Norwegian (it took us weeks to get the music for the night scene right). To make up for that, we also got to sing one of the most beautiful pieces of music in the entire piece: an unaccompanied Whitsun psalm.

Sitting behind the orchestra meant that we didn’t get the best view of the actors. My impression was that they did pretty well given the difficulty of staging this work. The result was quite pantomime like in places and yet very moving elsewhere. Some aspects of the production did not work particularly well; for example, the silly voices and a mysterious decision to have two actors play the part of Peer.

But those are just quibbles, the evening as a whole was memorable (and the reviewer from The Herald seems to agree (here)).

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