Conroy Scott on Lucia di Lammermoor BEVERLEY BROMMERT is in conversation with Cape Town Opera House Soloist Conroy Scott (pictured left), who stars as Enrico in the upcoming Lucia di Lammermoor at Artscape:

Cape Town Opera House Soloist Conroy Scott, a bass-baritone of note, chuckles as he admits, “I’m good at playing bad people”. Opera-lovers who admired his outstanding portrayal of Scarpia in CTO’s Tosca last year will not dispute that, and with the company’s next major production, Lucia di Lammermoor, due to open in June, he will have another opportunity to show his mettle as an antipathetic character.

He will play Enrico, Lucia’s manipulative brother, and he says that this is fast becoming one of his favourite roles. “Enrico is flawed and complex, a cocaine-snorting addict, in this new version of Donizetti’s opera…the production is full of challenges not only vocally, but also when it comes to  staging. However, having such an experienced director as Prof Angelo Gobbato is fantastic, as he can deal so promptly and so well with queries and any problems that arise out of interpretation,” Scott remarks, adding nostalgically that this reminds him of his time as a student at the UCT Opera School. “That was when Prof Gobbato was head of the school, and Kamal Khan (who is collaborating with Gobbato for this 2024 production) used to come over regularly from New York to conduct the orchestra.”

From engineering to opera

Opera was not Scott’s first choice of a career; on leaving school he initially studied mechanical engineering with a view to joining his father’s business. He worked as an engineer for four years and yet the lure of singing proved irresistible. Four years after working as an engineer he pursued his opera and double bass studies and it’s interesting to note that he played the bass with the orchestra in recent production of The Sound of Music.

The combination of such dissimilar disciplines is not as unlikely as one might suppose: Scott explains, “Both opera and engineering have one important thing in common, namely precision. There is no room for inaccuracy in either. This is particularly true of bel canto, where the clarity of every note counts; discipline is essential, as Kamal – who is an excellent vocal coach – never fails to remind us.”

Rehearsals for Lucia di Lammermoor began three weeks ago, and Scott had the misfortune to contract a bout of Covid not long after they started. “I managed to keep up to date through video calls, and have been back for a week now, recovering gradually. But it takes time, and the after-effects are persistent. The main thing is to keep singing in order to build stamina and deal with all the challenges mentally, vocally and emotionally,” is his stoical response to this brief, unwelcome setback.

Keeping the art form alive

The opera opens in mid-June, so there is still time in which to meet all the demands of his role. Thereafter it will go on tour, and Scott is more than happy to take opera to people who would never normally be able to experience the delights it has to offer: “Much as I miss my little son (aged two and a half) when I go away on tour, I find it most rewarding to keep this art form alive through performance, making youngsters aware and interested, in small towns as well as big cities.” This is very much in line with the ethos of CTO as the company strives to grow new audiences for the survival of opera. Singers of Scott’s calibre and generosity of spirit are in the vanguard of this worthy crusade.

What: Lucia di Lammermoor

Where and when: Artscape from 14 to 23 June 2024

Tickets: Webtickets