Excerpt 01: Introduction
Excerpt 02: I love a lass (Dumbiedykes)
Excerpt 03: What can it be? (Jeanie)
Excerpt 04: Why com'st thou thus? (Jeanie/Effie)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Janice Watson (soprano), Lisa Milne (soprano)
Excerpt 05: O God, whose eyes (Jeanie/Effie/Deans/Constable)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Janice Watson (soprano), Lisa Milne (soprano), Peter Sidhom (bass), Graeme Danby (bass)
Excerpt 06: O friends, I said but now (Deans)
Excerpt 07: Nay, neighbour (Chorus/Dumbiedykes/Deans)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Scottish Opera Chorus, Stephen Gadd (bass), Peter Sidhom (bass)
Excerpt 08: O father, father, shame indeed (Effie)
Excerpt 09: Thou hast shamed (Deans)
Excerpt 10: Oh! would that I again (Effie)
Excerpt 11: Sleep for the day is done (Effie)
Excerpt 12: O Effie, darling (Staunton/Effie)
BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra, Martyn Brabbins (conductor), Jamie MacDougall (tenor), Lisa Milne (soprano)
Excerpt 13: That shout! (Staunton/Effie/Rioters)
Nicholas Temperley has described it as ‘unquestionably the finest opera of the late Victorian period’, praising its ‘refreshingly personal idiom’ and powers of musical characterization, and finding in it ‘a prophetic touch of twentieth-century realism …’ (Music in Britain, The Romantic Age).
The central characters are two sisters; Effie Deans, who has to confess the birth of an illegitimate child to her sister Jeanie, the heroine, whose faith, honour, simplicity and nobility are the true subject matter of the opera. Effie, accused of child murder, has her own honour too, refusing to reject her seducer or to allow even the slightest subterfuge to save herself from imprisonment for a crime she denies with unswerving sincerity, and under the terrible rejection of her father.
Her lover, faithful too in his own way, attempts to rescue her from prison during the Porteous riots in Edinburgh—but again she refuses the easy way out. She is saved by Jeanie’s heroic, barefoot journey to London where persuasive goodness wins, via Queen Caroline’s intercession, a Royal pardon for her sister which arrives in the nick of time.
The story is based on Sir Walter Scott’s Heart of Midlothian, a title which cynically refers to the old Tolbooth prison formerly in Edinburgh’s High Street, but which Scott and MacCunn have now made synonymous with all that is best in human nature.
As a whole, the opera is tightly constructed, the scenes dramatically paced, and the musical inspiration sustained—especially in Jeanie’s impassioned pleading before the Queen. Finally, her and Jeanie’s faith in ultimate justice is vindicated. Effie’s father has forgiven her and Staunton and his men’s resistance to the guard is made unnecessary by the arrival of Jeanie with the Royal pardon.
from notes by John Purser © 1995