Opera Scotland

Sadler's Wells Opera

Sadler’s Wells Opera (SWO, renamed English National Opera in 1974) used to tour Scotland on a regular basis, providing local audiences with some memorable performances.

During the war, leading soprano Joan Cross, also the company's manager, took a troupe to a number of factory towns in the North West from the Vic-Wells base in Burnley. It was then that they made their first Scottish visits (to Glasgow and Edinburgh) performing in 1941, 1942 and 1944. The stagings were naturally very limited but by all accounts were well received. In Glasgow in March 1941 Madam Butterfly was played to the sound of the Luftwaffe bombing Clydebank.

After the war, Scots interested in opera were able to attend performances put on by Carl Rosa (seemingly of an increasingly variable standard as touring became more and more expensive), at the Edinburgh Festival, or by some of the amateur companies that flourished in those days. Decision makers in the Arts Council and elsewhere became increasingly aware of the need for subsidy for opera in general, including touring opera in the provinces. After a political and increasingly public dispute, Carl Rosa personnel were almost entirely absorbed by Sadler’s Wells, and Sadler’s Wells was awarded a subsidy on the basis they would have not only a London season but also carry the main responsibility for the provision of opera to the provinces. Two companies were maintained simultaneousky that alternated these functions.

When SWO resumed performances in Scotland in 1957, Dundee and Aberdeen were included, Dundee being dropped from the rota when the King’s Theatre (known at the time as the Gaumont, and used mainly as a cinema) was closed to theatrical use in 1961. For over a decade, SWO continued to pay regular visits to Scotland, but from autumn 1968 their London performances were given in the much larger London Coliseum, and their touring season was limited to the spring, after that London season had ended.

Scottish Opera was going from strength to strength and arguably had a stronger call on the public money available for opera in Scotland. A two week season in Edinburgh in 1972 and a ‘Ring’ cycle in Glasgow in 1976 (‘Scottish’ performances which were held for the first and only time under the name of English National Opera) ended SWO’s Scottish visits. They had performed 465 times to audiences totalling many thousands in the four cities.

Sadler’s Wells Opera has a long and varied history in which Lilian Baylis played a famous part as a manager for many years. Opera was Baylis’s first love, and in 1918 she was instrumental in ensuring that opera was produced not only in English but in a translation that could be heard and understood by the less well off in society. Diction was therefore paramount, as was keen pricing. Over a period of years the company was built up and moved from a point where productions were ‘ramshackle’ to one where they offered satisfying productions on tour across the UK.

OperaScotland is particularly indebted to the erstwhile ENO archivist, Clare Colvin, for her help in ensuring our list of SWO performances in Scotland is accurate. She helped us also with cast lists and various other queries as far as she could. We have sourced information also from reviews, advertisements, programmes and books.

Acknowledgements to English National Opera

Further reading:-

Gilbert, S 2009 Opera for Everybody:the Story of English National Opera Faber & Faber
Schafer, E. 2006 Lilian Baylis:a biography Universiy of Hertfordshire Press/Society for Theatre Research

Andrea Chénier
1960 - Andrea Chénier
Ariadne auf Naxos
1969 - Ariadne on Naxos
Ballo in maschera
1965 - Masked Ball
Barbe-bleue
1966 - Bluebeard
1969 - Bluebeard
Barber of Seville
1942 - Barbiere di Siviglia
1944 - Barbiere di Siviglia
1960 - Barbiere di Siviglia
1961 - Barbiere di Siviglia
1966 - Barbiere di Siviglia
1967 - Barbiere di Siviglia
Bartered Bride
1944 - Bartered Bride
1957 - Bartered Bride
1962 - Bartered Bride
Belle Hélène
1963 - Belle Hélène
1965 - Belle Hélène
1967 - Belle Hélène
1968 - Belle Hélène
Bohème
1941 - Bohème
1944 - Bohème
1957 - Bohème
1958 - Bohème
1960 - Bohème
1961 - Bohème
Carmen
1959 - Carmen
1963 - Carmen
1964 - Carmen
1972 - Carmen
Cavalleria Rusticana
1963 - Cavalleria Rusticana
1972 - Cavalleria Rusticana
Cenerentola
1960 - Cenerentola
1961 - Cenerentola
1965 - Cenerentola
1967 - Cenerentola
Così fan tutte
1944 - Così fan tutte
1964 - Così fan tutte
1966 - Così fan tutte
Count Ory
1969 - Comte Ory
Don Giovanni
1960 - Don Giovanni
1968 - Don Giovanni
Don Pasquale
1963 - Don Pasquale
1967 - Don Pasquale
Duke Bluebeard's Castle
1972 - Duke Bluebeard's Castle
Ernani
1967 - Ernani
Eugene Onegin
1957 - Eugene Onegin
Faust
1964 - Faust
1965 - Faust
Fidelio
1959 - Fidelio
Fledermaus
1941 - Fledermaus
1960 - Fledermaus
1961 - Fledermaus
1968 - Fledermaus
Flying Dutchman
1965 - Fliegende Holländer
1966 - Fliegende Holländer
Forza del Destino
1969 - Force of Destiny
Freischütz
1965 - Freischütz
Gianni Schicchi
1944 - Gianni Schicchi
1957 - Gianni Schicchi
Girl of the Golden West
1963 - Fanciulla del West
1964 - Fanciulla del West
Gloriana
1967 - Gloriana
Hansel and Gretel
1960 - Hansel and Gretel
1964 - Hansel and Gretel
1966 - Hansel and Gretel
Iolanthe
1962 - Iolanthe
Italian Girl in Algiers
1968 - Italiana in Algeri
Land of Smiles
1961 - Land of Smiles
Madama Butterfly
1941 - Madam Butterfly
1942 - Madam Butterfly
1944 - Madam Butterfly
1959 - Madam Butterfly
1960 - Madam Butterfly
1965 - Madam Butterfly
1966 - Madam Butterfly
1969 - Madam Butterfly
Magic Flute
1942 - Zauberflöte
1962 - Zauberflöte
1963 - Zauberflöte
1967 - Zauberflöte
1969 - Zauberflöte
Marriage of Figaro
1941 - Nozze di Figaro
1957 - Nozze di Figaro
1958 - Nozze di Figaro
1959 - Nozze di Figaro
1961 - Nozze di Figaro
1965 - Nozze di Figaro
1966 - Nozze di Figaro
Martha
1957 - Martha
Merrie England
1960 - Merrie England
Merry Widow
1958 - Lustige Witwe
1959 - Lustige Witwe
Mikado
1963 - Mikado
Mines of Sulphur
1965 - Mines of Sulphur
Oedipus Rex
1972 - Oedipus Rex
Orpheus and Euridice
1967 - Orfeo ed Euridice
Orpheus in the Underworld
1961 - Orphée aux Enfers
1965 - Orphée aux Enfers
1967 - Orphée aux Enfers
Pagliacci
1963 - Pagliacci
1972 - Pagliacci
Patience
1969 - Patience
Peter Grimes
1964 - Peter Grimes
Rake's Progress
1969 - Rake's Progress
Rigoletto
1942 - Rigoletto
1959 - Rigoletto
1962 - Rigoletto
1964 - Rigoletto
1968 - Rigoletto
Samson et Dalila
1964 - Samson and Delilah
1966 - Samson and Delilah
1967 - Samson and Delilah
Seraglio
1964 - Entführung aus dem Serail
1965 - Entführung aus dem Serail
1972 - Entführung aus dem Serail
Suor Angelica
1957 - Suor Angelica
Tabarro
1944 - Tabarro
1957 - Tabarro
Tannhäuser
1960 - Tannhäuser
1961 - Tannhäuser
Thieving Magpie
1966 - Gazza Ladra
Tosca
1957 - Tosca
1961 - Tosca
1962 - Tosca
Traviata
1941 - Traviata
1942 - Traviata
1957 - Traviata
1958 - Traviata
1961 - Traviata
1963 - Traviata
1967 - Traviata
Trovatore
1957 - Trovatore
Twilight of the Gods
1972 - Götterdämmerung
Vie Parisienne
1964 - Vie Parisienne
Violins of Saint-Jacques
1967 - Violins of Saint-Jacques

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