Opera Scotland

Glasgow Grand and the Festival of Britain

Posted 5 Apr 2013

Glasgow Grand Opera Society (GGOS), an organisation now defunct but with a remarkable history, for many years staged two operas during their annual week of performances.  In this way, they were able to offer something popular with something more unusual. 

In the year of the Festival of Britain, 1951, they put on both Jeanie Deans, Hamish MacCunn's first opera, and Arrigo Boito's Mefistofele.  Nowadays, when performances by professional opera companies are within reach of most of us, there is a tendency to look down on amateur performers.  But these performances by GGOS are more properly considered as pro-am, with top performers in the leading roles.  The performances in this ambitious bill were noted by all accounts for their quality. In the pit in Glasgow's Theatre Royal was the Scottish National Orchestra under Walter Susskind.   Mefistofele starred Ian Wallace in the title role, with Richard Lewis as Faust and Dorothy Robertson as Margaret.  The production was in fact the very first directed by Peter Ebert, who had learned from his father Carl Ebert at Glyndebourne the need to bring out the drama in opera performances.

George Muir, a stalwart of the Society for many years, sang the role of Wagner in Mefistofele. It is to his niece, Irene Papworth, we are indebted for the donation of the programmes for many of the GGOS postwar performances. Very many thanks, Irene!

As we continue to develop this record of the history of opera in Scotland, we welcome all such contributions. If you hold or inherit such documents, particularly for the 1950s and earlier, and want to find them a good home, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us. But for the time being, read more about Glasgow Grand Opera Society here.

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