Opera Scotland

The Gondoliers in Scotland

Posted 9 Sep 2021

The Gondoliers received its first performance in Scotland on 26 May 1890 at the Royalty Theatre, Glasgow.

An unusual feature is that the performers were billed as the D'Oyly Carte  'American' company. They had just returned from giving the opening run of the work in New York. This Scottish tour was brief, with just single weeks in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen.

One veteran in the company was the bass Richard Temple. He had created nine roles in the London premieres of all the G&S works from The Sorcerer to The Yeomen of the Guard, but had been reserved for the American launch of the latest piece. This is the only occasion when Temple sang G&S in Scotland. Up and coming stars in the company included Henry Lytton (the Duke) and Fred Billington (Don Alhambra).

The Gondoliers was quickly accepted into the regular touring repertoire, with visits to the four Scottish cities if not annually then very frequently. Between the wars the company included, in addition to the comic Henry Lytton, Bertha Lewis in the 'old lady' roles, with sopranos Elsie Griffin and Winifred Lawson and basses Darrell Fancourt and Leo Sheffield. These performers were very much seen as popular stars of the day.

By the 1960s the company was in the habit of spending three weeks at a time in the Scottish cities, with a repertoire of half-a-dozen works. Kenneth Sandford could be seen as Don Alhambra and John Reed as the Duke, Tenor Thomas Round divided his time between D'Oyly Carte and Sadler's Wells. Contralto Gillian Knight spent several seasons in the 'old lady' roles before joining Covent Garden. The soprano Valerie Masterson sang roles such as Casilda for several seasons before devoting her career to major operatic roles, sadly not appearing in Scotland.

The last staging of The Gondoliers by the original D''Oyly Cart company was by opera director Anthony Besch. It was performed throughout the sixties. In 1991 the New D'Oyly Carte company brought to Glasgow a new production directed by Tim Hatley in bright postcard designs by Nigel Lowery. The cast included a youthful Richard Suart as the Duke and Alan Oke as Giuseppe.

Scottish Opera's first production of The Gondoliers was given in 1968. The director was Joan Cross, with designs by Jack Notman, and James Loughran conducted his BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra. The cast included Ian Wallace and Johanna Peters as Duke and Duchess, with Bill McCue as Don Alhanbra. John Wakefield and Ronald Morrison were the Gondoliers with Anne Pashley and Janet Coster as their girls. Casilda and Luiz were played by Jill Gomez and John Robertson.

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