Scottish Opera Connect Company: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari (4 stars)

Scottish Opera Connect Company: The Cabinet of Dr Caligari

Credit: Tim Morozzo

Young performers deliver atmospheric new gothic opera with the sheen of professionalism front stage and back

There’s nothing like standing beside somebody with more training, experience and skill than you to help raise your game. As the young participants in Scottish Opera’s Connect Company have discovered over the past eight months.

Working alongside a range of creative professionals, the group of budding singers, musicians and stage managers helped deliver a production which Scottish Opera could proudly put its name to.

Starting life as a silent horror film in 1920s Germany, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari has been cleverly transformed by composer Karen MacIver and librettist Allan Dunn into an intriguing and atmospheric gothic opera.

When a trip to the local fairground, and in particular the sideshow of the charming Dr Gallagher, ends in murder, young couple Francis and Jane set out to solve the crime. Their quest takes them to an eerie mental asylum where Dr Caligari, bearing an uncanny likeness to the aforementioned Gallagher, denies all knowledge – leading to a deliciously ambiguous ending.

With lead parts given over to a handful of talented trained opera singers, the smaller roles, chorus and orchestra is all left in the capable hands of the 14–21-year-olds recruited into Connect. At times, it’s hard to believe MacIver’s pacey and dramatic score is being played by such young musicians. And while the younger voices lack the projection which years of operatic training bring, the swell of the chorus is a delight, featuring some powerful harmonies.

The absence of supertitles may have denied us some of the nuances of Dunn’s libretto, but in every other way, front stage and back, The Cabinet of Dr Caligari had the sheen of professionalism.

Seen at Woodside Halls, Glasgow, Sun 10 Apr.

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