Scotland has a new hero. He’s called Fergus and he comes from Galloway. He sung his way onto the stage at the Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh last night (Tuesday 10th December ) in the world premiere of a new operetta by Alexander McCall Smith and Tom Cunningham.
Scotland’s master storyteller has retold a 13th century tale of a knight from Galloway who wins the approval of King Arthur and the hand of the beautiful princess of Lothian, Galiene. A series of 12 poems sees Fergus hunting stags in the forest, defeating evil knights, rescuing the lovely Galiene from a siege at Roxburgh and, of course, marrying her. “I believe in happy endings,” McCall Smith told the audience afterwards. “ But of course the Le Roman de Fergus, written in courtly French, was a send-up, a parody of the King Arthur legend.”
And the 8-member cast of the Edinburgh Studio Opera brought all the humour to life. This is an operetta mainly for the chorus and their chorus work was superb. Every face told the story, every word could be heard and their movements around the stage were assured and precise.
Tom Cunningham’s music too was delightful, flowing natural tunes with a pacey accompaniment provided by Stuart Hope on the piano and Emma Donald on the violin.
The whole show reminded me of Gilbert and Sullivan with its immediately appealing music and its comic observations on our social manners.
As McCall Smith said afterwards; “Almost everything we do has a deeply symbolic meaning, if we care to look for it.” And while this, like the opera, was meant as a joke, there is a slight element of truth in it and this is what gives the comedy backbone.