Opera Scotland

Jeanie Deans

Music

Hamish MacCunn (born Greenock 22 March 1868; died London 2 August 1916).

Text

Joseph Bennett.

Source

Novel The Heart of Midlothian (1818) by Sir Walter Scott (1771-1832).

 

Premieres

First Performance: Edinburgh (Royal Lyceum Theatre), 15 November 1894.

First Performance in Scotland: As above.

Scottish Opera premiere: N/A.

 

Background

MacCunn studied in London at the Royal College of Music, with Parry and Stanford. Thereafter he lived in London, though many of his compositions had Scottish themes. His first opera received its first performance in 1894 and was an immediate success, not just in Scotland, but also when it opened in London (at Daly's Theatre on 22 January 1896. It continued to be performed regularly during MacCunn's lifetime, though since the Second World War it has only featured in the repertoire of amateur groups. The Heart of Midlothian is nowadays generally assessed as one of the most important of Scott's novels.

 

Main Characters

Effie Deans (soprano)

Jeanie Deans, her sister (soprano)

George Staunton, Effie's lover (tenor)

Laird of Dumbiedykes (baritone)

Madge Wildfire (mezzo-soprano)

 

Plot Summary

The 'Heart of Midlothian' of the novel's title is the old Tolbooth, Edinburgh's medieval prison building, located on the Royal Mile outside the entrance to St Giles Cathedral. Today its site is signified by a heart-shaped outline in pink granite setts (cobble-stones).

The underpinning historical event, largely ignored in the opera, is the Porteous Riots of 1736, in which Captain Porteous, an officer of the City Guard, was believed to be over-zealous in maintaining public order, thus causing several unnecessary deaths, and was himself lynched by the mob.

Scott's fiction is interwoven with the above situation. The leader of the mob is one Robertson, in fact George Staunton, a wealthy gentleman of reckless behaviour. His lover is Effie Deans, imprisoned on a charge of child murder. When Effie is condemned to death, her sister Jeanie sets out to walk to London to beg for a royal pardon. On arrival, she is helped by the Duke of Argyle to gain an audience with the Queen, as a result of which a pardon is obtained. It is at last revealed that the baby was not in fact killed, but had been stolen by a gypsy woman, Madge Wildfire, who reveals the truth on her deathbed.

The Cast

Constable
 
Davie Deans
 a Cameronian, father of Jeanie and Effie
Effie Deans
 
George Staunton
 alias Robertson, lover of Effie Deans
Janet Balcristie
 
Jeanie Deans
 
John Dumbie
 Laird of Dumbiedykes
John, Duke of Argyll
 
Lady Suffolk
 Lady in Waiting to the Queen
Madge Wildfire
 an outcast gypsy
Queen Caroline
 Consort of George II

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2017

Site by SiteBuddha