Opera Scotland

Ferzzolini as Dulcamara in the premiere

Italian Opera in Edinburgh 1838

Posted 15 Nov 2013

Before the development of the passenger railway network across Britain from the 1840s onwards, travelling opera singers had to journey by sea. For a trip north to Edinburgh they would have made use of the extensive East coast trade. And so when in May 1838 a company of Italian opera singers offered eight performances at Edinburgh's Theatre Royal, it was hailed as something special. Mr Mitchell, manager of the Italian Opera Buffa, London, promised "the most successful Italian Operas which have recently been performed"(in London and Dublin).

Their repertoire was to be drawn from the following works - L'Elisir D'Amore, Betly, Torquato Tasso (Donizetti), Le Nozze di Figaro (Mozart), L'Italiana in Algieri (Rossini), Scaramuccia (Ricci), Elisa E Claudio (Mercadante), La Sonnambula (Bellini) and Nina (Coppola). As was normal in these days, the later performances in particular were chosen in accordance with their popularity at the box office, and of course the availability of singers.

On the first night, L'Italiania in Algieri was given along with Betly. Later, Scaramuccio and Le Nozze di Figaro were performed.  But the greatest success was for L'Elisir D'Amore, given on four evenings, the Caledonian Mercury and Scotsman giving positive reviews of both the opera and the company. The Caledonian Mercury said "The company ... is by far the best that has appeared on our boards... The performers are all good, and the equality of excellence by which they are distinguished produces a unity of effect which can never be obtained from the efforts of a company composed of one superior and many indifferent artists, as has been the case with us hitherto."

Nemorino was Signor Cantone, Belcore Signor Bellini, Dulcamara Signor F. Lablache and Adina was Mademoiselle Scheroni. The conductor was Signor Negri, and the theatre's band was reported as being 'considerably augmented' for these performances.

L'Elisir d'amore had first been performed in Milan in May 1832, just six years previously, and has remained in the repertoire ever since. 

Our illustration shows Giuseppe Frezzolini as Dr. Dulcamara at the Milan premiere.

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