Opinion – Love in a bookshop

Jun 5 2013 | By More

Hugh Kerr reports on the EIF’s pop-up opera

Chris Elliot, John Cameron (piano) AND Emma Morwood in the EIF production of Love in a Bookshop.  Photo © Hugh Kerr

Chris Elliott, John Cameron (piano) and Emma Morwood. Photo © Hugh Kerr

If you went down to Blackwell’s Bookshop on Edinburgh’s South Bridge on Tuesday afternoon, you will have got more than a browse amongst the bookshelves. This was when the Edinburgh International Festival sprang their latest version of Love In A …. on the unsuspecting book-buying public.

Hugh Kerr was there for the Annals – and reports back on how love bloomed amongst the bookshelves.

Love in a Bookshop was a half hour performance of wonderful songs by two fine young singers, Emma Morwood soprano and Chris Elliott tenor, accompanied by John Cameron on the piano. The performance too place in Blackwell’s bookshop  – or Jimmy Thins as some of us still call it – where they created a mini opera plot with Morwood as a bookshop assistant and Elliott a customer.

It started with Emma Morwood singing Gershwin’s Love Walked In – and right on cue, in walked Chris Elliott, who replied with Reynaldo Hahn’s To Chloris – a song about discovering love. After Chris asks Emma for help in finding a book about Shelley, the performance promenades round the bookshop with the two singing love songs to each other from Schumann, Quilter, Faure, Schubert and Wagner. All of the songs followed the theme of love and its development.

Emma Morwood is a very good young singer. Originally from Belfast, she trained in Edinburgh and is now making a name for herself in European opera houses. I have been keeping an eye on Emma ever since she was a student and she entertained me singing while queuing for a La Scala performance of the Magic Flute at the Festival Theatre. Chris Elliott won the John Ireland Song Prize and is tipped by Opera Now magazine as one of Britain’s 50 best young singers.

They both sang and acted beautifully and made you forget you were in a bookshop and instead were witnessing a love affair.

When, finally, they kissed it was fitting that they sang together what is, perhaps, the greatest love song of all time: Robert Burns’ My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose.

The whole performance was a delight which engaged an appreciative audience in the bookshop some of whom had just wandered in and found themselves in the middle of an opera.

This was the first of a planned series of mini dramas or concerts around Edinburgh this week. Each will have a slightly different song list, appropriate to the venue – which will be announced every morning at 9.30am on Facebook and twitter.

So make sure you like the Edinburgh International Facebook page and you will get an invitation to a free festival event. If it is half as good as Love in a Bookshop you are in for a treat.

Follow the EIF on twitter: @edintfest
Follow the EIF on facebook: edinburghinternationalfestival



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