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Performances by Byre Opera (June 2015)

iphigenie poster

Iphigenie in Tauris was performed by Byre Opera at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on 15, 17 and 18 June 2015.

The production was directed by Jane Pettegree, and the period-instrument orchestra, featuring the Fitzwilliam String Quartet and Ars Eloquentiae, was led by Lucy Russell and conducted by Michael Downes.


Performance photos

Audience Feedback and Reviews

Performance photos

Photographs courtesy of Ben Goulter

Men fighting

Ladies in line





Final dance

Final bow

Audience Feedback

A total of just over 600 tickets were sold for the three performances of Iphigenie in Tauris at the Byre Theatre in St Andrews on 15, 17 and 18 June 2015.

The audience was invited to fill in a free-text questionnaire in which they were given the opportunity to comment on the impact of the English libretto:

  • The English translation meant I could follow the story a lot better, so I could emotionally connect with the characters, and I had not experienced this before in an opera.
  • I found all of it very effective
  • Text very clear. Well-translated.
  • All very stylish.
  • Otherwise I would not understand the opera.
  • A wonderfully clear and accessible libretto, so beautifully delivered especially by Iphigenie and Pylades.
  • It was wonderful to understand what was actually being said. The words flowed naturally as if the libretto had been written in English.
  • You wouldn’t have known it was a translation – amazing!
  • A fantastic translation. Pylades did credit to the text.
  • It was all great!
  • Clear and accessible libretto.
  • Arias were so good. Opera in translation is great.
  • The choice of relatively simple language made it clear and easy to follow.
  • It fits the music very well.
  • It was understandable.
  • It was all most helpful.
  • It was all brilliant. You could understand what they said.
  • The simplicity of the vocabulary used made the story very accessible.
  • Very comprehensive, fitted very well to music and so more comfortable for singers. No forced rhyming made it feel more natural.
  • Translation was universally effective.
  • A very poetic, beautiful adaptation. There was great verisimilitude in the text – great turns of phrases.
  • Musically, the lyrics flowed effectively.
  • The plain English, excellent fit to music.
  • Excellent translation.
  • Very straightforward, timeless.
  • I very much enjoyed all of it.
  • Modern English made opera smoother and more understandable.
  • Sounded effective.
  • This translation is very effective because it tells the story without being overly noticeable in itself.
  • Assisted following the plot.
  • Clarity of the story.
  • Very helpful.
  • I liked that it was in English so I could understand it. I have been to a few operas that if I don’t know the story I would be completely lost.
  • Good translation.
  • It’s accessible due to English language.
  • It appears very singable.

Further audience feedback received by email:

  • Just a note to say how much I appreciated your wonderful libretto. I don’t underestimate the effort that must have gone into achieving this effect, but the end product was quite beautiful – seamless, clear, and without the hint of linguistic awkwardness. It was as if the original had been written in English. I was left wondering why this opera is so little known and so little performed.
  • We all agreed that the translation made so much more sense, and with the excellent diction of the singers meant that one could follow the action and story (implausible as most opera stories!) without having to look at subtitles, so could concentrate on the stage.
  • I [also] thought that the English translation was really good and sensitive, so often an English version can grate or seem out of place and this didn't.
  • I seem to remember you were particularly interested in comments on the translation. I thought it was really excellent - very clear and straightforward and hitting just the right tone.
  • I never had the impression that the singers were straining to get their organs round the words (so to speak): that in itself is testimony to the quality of the translations that you came up with.

Feedback Session

After the performance on 17 June 2015, I led a post-performance feedback session open to the public and featuring the director of the opera and the music director. Attendees had the opportunity to ask questions and were asked to fill in a simple tick-box questionnaire. The results, based on 16 completed questionnaires, were as follows:

  • 93.7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that having the libretto in English helped them to understand and appreciate the opera.
  • 93.7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they now have a greater appreciation of Gluck. This includes one respondent who changed their response to “agree” in light of the discussion. Prior to the discussion, the positive response rate was 87.5%.
  • 93.7% of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that they hope to see another Gluck opera sometime.


Andrew Clark in the highly influential Opera Magazine reported that the production “was sung in a sympathetic and highly singable translation commissioned from the university’s French Department” (August 2015, p. 1045).

Opera Scotland also liked the libretto: “Another great success was the new English singing translation used. This was prepared by a group of seventeen students as part of a specialist module on which they collaborated. This was prepared under the leadership, perhaps co-ordination could be an appropriate term, of their tutor, Julia Prest. She, and several of the students, were there on stage trying it out for themselves. It really worked very well - the words fitted the musical line, and all the singers managed to project the sense. There were no awkward modernisms or overused antique expressions, and it all flowed well.”