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Edinburgh Festivals: The Da Vinci chorus at Rosslyn

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Edinburgh Festivals

The Da Vinci chorus at Rosslyn


By Tim Cornwell

Rosslyn Chapel
Rosslyn Chapel
ROSSLYN Chapel was last night hosting a gala opening of an opera production for the first time in its history.

The performance of The Magic Flute an opera almost as famous for its purported ties to Freemasonry as the chapel itself could be the beginning of an annual opera season at the historic venue, it is hoped.

"It is something that we would love to make work," said Lady Helen, Countess of Rosslyn, whose family has owned the chapel for centuries.

"If we were able to start this as a regular feature, it would bring a whole new audience to the chapel. It's certainly a very fitting opera."

Cambridge University's newly-formed Shadwell Opera, with an orchestra and cast of about 40 top choral and music students, produced a musically stunning version of the Mozart classic amid the extraordinary carvings, including the famous Green Man.

Future productions could include other operas whose mysterious overtones fit the legends surrounding the chapel. Handel's Rinaldo is set among Crusader knights, while Wagner's Parsifal is the story of the quest for the Holy Grail.

The chapel features prominently in the bestseller The Da Vinci Code, a thriller full of references to the Knights Templar and the Holy Grail that was made into a film starring Tom Hanks.

The countess chairs the committee running a 14 million restoration of the chapel, aiming to raise about 2.5m towards that figure over the next five years. The overhaul has already received grants from the Heritage Lottery Fund and Historic Scotland.

Supporters were invited to last night's gala opening after a dress rehearsal on Monday produced a spell-binding performance for reviewers.

Earlier this year, Shadwell Opera chose a witty English version of The Magic Flute, translated from the German by Kit Hesketh-Harvey, originally for Scottish Opera.

He agreed that they could use it, but on condition the production came to Rosslyn. He knew that the countess and her husband, Peter St Clair-Erskine, the Earl of Rosslyn, have been keen to see the opera performed there.

"We will see how this goes. If people enjoy it, there's no reason why we shouldn't have a small-scale opera on a permanent basis," said Hesketh-Harvey.

"It depends on the reception of this tonight and over the next week, but there seems to be a huge interest in operas that particularly relate to the quirky mysteries surrounding the chapel."

An opera writer and producer who has worked with the Royal Opera House in London, he said Rosslyn could host semi-professional or professional productions in the future. One issue is the size of the audience. With the large orchestra in the show, there is seating for only 90, and the production, running until Saturday, is already sold out.

However, a Shadwell spokeswoman said Rosslyn Castle might be used in future productions for dramatic scenes. The organisers have also considered a marquee stage.

"It just seems such a good match up, that beautiful chapel and really high-quality music," said the countess.

"Opera seems to be a very good fit. If it could develop into an annual opera season, it would be fantastic."

Further Reading

The 'York Rite' of Freemasonry - Wine, Human Skull Caps and 'Lit' Candles

In Focus (Bro. Tom Hanks, etc.)