Opera Scotland

Tannhäuser 1915O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tannhäuser

In this tour of what was, at the time, by far the most frequently performed Wagner opera, the title role was sung by a newcomer, at least to major roles, in the Engish tenor William Boland, who would be a dominant figure in performances of the heavier tenor repertoire over the next few years.  He had sung in Scotland previously in the Denhof company.  He was also highly versatile, with the ability to perform lyrical roles of the French school as well as Verdi and Wagner.

One curiosity of this cast is the presence of a soprano called Marjorie Lawrence. She should not be confused with the famous Australian Wagnerian soprano with an identical name, whose career was shortened as a result of contracting polio. Great as she undoubtedly was, it seems unlikely that even an Australian born in 1909 could be singing Wagner in public in Britain at the age of six!

The Aberdonian soprano Nellie Watt was married to the Dundee-born bass William Anderson.  He often sang the Landgrave, but not on this occasion.

 

Dundee Press Comment

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, March 19, 1915

O’Mara Opera Company - Wagner’s “Tannhäuser”

'As time goes on and performances take place the wonder grows that the O'Mara company is able to give representations that are so well-balanced and display so few weaknesses.  It is not a case of a good principal or two and a crowd of indifferents. The singer of the smallest solo part is more than equal to his work; and it seems plain that even the best could be adequately replaced by a nominally inferior member of the company. The result emerging from this happy state of matters is that the operas have had an all-round excellence that is far from common.  Tannhäuser last night was played with an adequacy not at all inferior to the operas given earlier in the week, and this is to say much.  Everything went with such easy fluency and just emphasis as to leave little or no room for adverse criticism.

'In Tannhäuser as in most of Wagner's music dramas, religious ideas form the basis of the argument. It is astonishing that the unco guid found fault with the tendencies of Wagnerian operas when they were first produced. This must have been due to misunderstanding, for, however much Wagner may toy with Venus, he was really on the side of the angels.  In fact, his attitude in religious matters was that of the ultra-orthodox.  And, like many such, he is inclined to introduce his ideas in and out of season. This didactic weakness gives his operas a sense of solemnity that perhaps weighs upon some.

'Very beautiful in every respect was the Elizabeth of Miss Florence Morden.  Her mezzo voce is delicious, and, though power is not her chief characteristic, she can produce ringing upper notes when required.  Throughout the “Prayer” the tone had lovely quality; and there was effective variety in the Hall of Song greeting.  Mr Boland as Tannhäuser exhibited all the excellences that he showed in Faust and none of the defects.  The music suited his voice to a semitone; and his sense of drama is so strong that there is fine spontaneity in his acting and declamation. His expressive rendering of the Narration was a specially good example of his work.

'From Mr Lewys James came the usual round and pleasant baritone phrases.  Wolfram is a sympathetic character, and the tones with which Mr James makes him reveal himself are of a kind that never fail to touch and move the listener. The “Star of Eve” solo was, of course, an effort of mark, but there was much besides that might be named as worthy.  The Landgrave was well represented by Mr William Heughan, and other male parts were satisfactory.

'The part of Venus by Miss Marjorie Lawrence showed that the lady, though apparently suffering from cold, has a voice of beauty and power.  Miss Watt sang the Shepherd Boy's song nicely.  The chorus as a whole, and also when separated into female and into male voices, sang with spirit and discretion.  The Overture by the band under Mr Herbert Ferrers was greatly to the credit of both instrumentalists and conductor.

'The excellent performances already given lead us to expect something notable in the revival of Halévy's Jewess to-night.  Miss Rita Wallace, Mr William Anderson, and Mr O'Mara himself are to sing.'

 

Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Friday, March 19, 1915    (p4)

The O’Mara Opera Company - “Tannhäuser”

 'The performance of Tannhäuser last night by the O’Mara Opera Company had just the excellence which their appearance earlier in the week would lead us to expect. The company are imbued with rare enthusiasm, and work with a will.

'Popular choral numbers like “Hail, bright abode” went with capital swing, and the difficult concerted numbers were a credit to the singers and their training. The intricate orchestral score makes heavy demands upon the band, but they gave a really good rendering of the overture, in spite of occasional weaknesses. In symphonic passages, Mr Herbert Ferrers was equally successful in obtaining expressive interpretations.

'As Elizabeth, Miss Florence Morden equalled her success as Marguerite in Faust.  It is a precious gift to have a voice of such natural beauty and sweetness, and her vocal method is so easy and artistic that any criticism directed towards its lightness for heavy music is disarmed.  Her rendering of the “Hall of Song” solo had many graces, but the prayer at the cross in the last act was a perfect example of finished vocal art.  Mr William Boland improved greatly upon his appearance in Faust.  He is admirably suited to the part of Tannhäuser, and sang frequently with much brilliancy.  Without overdoing the declamatory passages, he was passionate and vigorous in his scene with Venus; his voice rang out well in the “Tournament of Song,” and the recital of Tannhäuser’s pilgrimage was restrained and full of feeling.

'Mr Lewys James once again made Wolfram, the noble, lofty minnesinger of tradition, and the Fantasy of “Star of Eve” notable successes.  Miss Marjorie Lawrence did well in the ungrateful part of Venus, and Mr William Heughan, as the Landgrave, used his rich voice effectively, though not always true to pitch.

'It was a very good performance of Wagner’s popular work, and deserved a much better house.  To-night there is a novelty in Halévy’s The Jewess, with Mr O’Mara and Mr William Anderson in important parts.' 

Performance Cast

Venus

Marjorie Lawrence (Mar 18)

Tannhäuser a knight and minnesinger

William Boland (Mar 18)

Shepherd boy

Nellie Watt (Mar 18)

Wolfram von Eschenbach a knight and minnesinger

Lewys James (Mar 18)

Hermann Landgrave of Thuringia

William Heughan (Mar 18)

Elisabeth niece of the Landgrave

Florence Morden (Mar 18)

Performance DatesTannhäuser 1915

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

18 Mar, 19.15

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