Opera Scotland

Rameau

Castor and Pollux

Posted 4 Feb 2014

The very first UK performance of Rameau's opera Castor and Pollux was given at the Lyric Theatre in Glasgow on 25 April 1927, the first of four evenings. According to the Glasgow Herald, there was a large and appreciative audience, for "the product of the splendid enterprise and enthusiastic application of Glasgow amateurs".

The reviewer paid tribute to Rameau (pictured), explaining that rather than patronise the master's efforts from such a distance in time, one must rather marvel that he could express so much with means so simple. "Rameau has painted with equal conviction for his hearers the celebrated atmosphere of the Gates of Hades and the Elysian Fields.  The score is a great score, and we are indebted to the amateurs for the privilege of being able to hear it."

The production by Mr A. Parry Gunn was praised. "Handicapped by a small stage, and other limitations, he has yet contrived a series of beautiful and varied stage pictures, and has made his effects, as Rameau himself has done, by the cunning employment of simple means."

Guy F. McCrone, well known in Glasgow musical circles, provided the English translation and sang Castor too. The dancing, which played a large part in the production, was arranged by Miss Constance Herbert and was "invariably graceful and appropriately devised." 

The orchestra was led by Mr J. Peebles Conn.  Mr J Hutton Malcolm was at the piano, conducting or playing by turns or simultaneously.  The absence of a harpsichord was noted and regretted by the Herald critic.

The Scotsman too paid credit to an effective performance, naming the other principals as Miss Fiona M. Malcolm (Venus), Miss Elsie Campbell (Hilaria), Mr Leggat Paisley (Pollux), Mr Philip Malcolm (Jupiter) and Miss Constance M. Herbert as Hebe.  Miss J. Henderson as Phoebe and Miss M. Steads as Mercury were also credited.

There is no record of a subsequent operatic production by this team - one would like to know more about the background to this remarkable milestone.

And so Rameau's Castor and Pollux joined that select group of operas whose first UK performance was in Scotland.

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