Seedhill Playing Fields in Paisley are usually associated with football rather than opera, but a bold and ambitious project by Scottish Opera, supported by Renfrewshire Leisure, saw the pitch transformed into ‘Paisley’s Opera House’ for an awe inspiring production of Pagliacci. Boasting a company of nearly 200, including The Orchestra of Scottish Opera, the cast of international soloists and professional and community chorus, brought this blood and guts tale of love and jealousy to life, in an immersive, playful production.
The enormous marquee which housed the production (aka Paisley’s Opera House) was filled with interesting curiosities, much like a Victorian-era circus would have been. Fortune tellers and Punch and Judy shows entertained the audience during intervals, and stalls selling food added to the feeling that one had come to a circus, and consequently, and cleverly, that we were first hand witnesses to the dramatic events that unfolded during the acts.
Scenes were placed across the breadth of the tent, with the audience guided masterfully by the chorus, who were hidden amongst the crowds of people who had come to watch this very special production. There were numerous comic moments and high jinx, but the story centres on jealousy, fear and passion, and so this production was tense throughout. Caneo, sung by Ronald Samm – portrays the role of vengeful, sad clown and is incredibly emotive in his expression of jealousy and pain after the infidelities of his wife, Nedda, sung by Anna Patalong. The delicate, but inherent terror she feels is portrayed marvellously throughout, so that the last scene, which depicts her murder, is nothing short of chilling.
This production was a masterpiece of immersive opera, captivating opera enthusiasts and novices alike.