Opera Scotland

Carmen 1891Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Carmen

The company's first choice Carmen, Zélie de Lussan, sang in Glasgow and was announced for the Saturday matinée in Edinburgh, but being unable to sing, was replaced by a cover. When newspapers went to press the name of the replacement was not known, and no critics attended the performance. However Louise Lablache sang the following Wednesday, and had already appeared in Les Huguemots, so it is likely that she would have given the performance. The company was certainly fortunate to have two such notable tenors available for Don José - Lely had sung it with the Carl Rosa Carmen Company and Marie Roze in the spring, and had first worked with the conductor over a decade earlier, touring with Emily Soldene. This season also marked the arrival of a young American soprano, Alice Esty, who was based in Britain from now on.

The opening night of the Glasgow season was reviewed in the Glasgow Herald (10 November) "At the Theatre-Royal last evening we had a continuation of the brilliant houses of last week, when Mr irving and the Lyceum company played to crowded benches.  Now we have the members of the Carl Rosa Opera Company with us, and they sang last night under similarly encouraging conditions.  It was not always so, but we need not recall the glacial period of grand opera in English.  Bizet's Carmen seems to be relied on season after season to be played at the beginning of the game.  It is usually a safe card; last night it was entirely successful.  The performance was an excellent one all round, principals and chorus and orchestra going through their work without a hitch, and at many points of the opera with exceptional spirit and artistic finish.  Mdlle Zélie de Lussan again appeared as Carmen, the character in which, if we remember rightly, she first appeared in Glasgow, and sprang into favour.   Mdlle. de Lussan's powers as vocalist and actress are not exhausted in a rôle such as Carmen.  She has all the espièglerie requisite for the part, but in passages in which the underlying strength of the character is for the moment revealed there are indications of the dramatic force and dignity which fit her for other and higher impersonations.  For the present, however, we have only to do with Bizet's heroine, who is everything by turns and nothing long - capricious,  infinitely miscievous, yet true to her gipsy standard of love, and never mercenary.  This daughter of pleasure and passion Mdlle. de Lussan sustains with consummate art.  Her byplay is spontaneous and free.  If we may hint a fault, it is that last night, her personal enjoyment of the character at times amounted to laughing 'asides' that were not originally contemplated.  The music of the part Mdlle. de Lussan sang charmingly.  The Habanera and the Seguidilla of the first act were rendered with exquisite vocal fluency.  Mr Durward Lely, the Don Jose of the opera, made a capital lover, and as the story develops Carmen tires of his rage and jeakousy.   We had a new Michaela in Miss Alice Esty, a young soprano who has a voice of great purity and sweetness and compaass, which she uses with sound method.  In the latter duet of the first act she sang with Mr Lely in unexceptionable style, while Michaela's leading aria in the thirf=d act 'I said nought should frighten me here', was delivered so sympathetically and phrased so beautifully, that the audience applauded with special heartiness.   What need we say of Mr Leslie Crotty's  Escamillo save that the Toreador's song was rendered superbly, and had the inevitable encore.  Mr Crotty had a hearty reception.  The principals generally, indeed, had no reason to complain on this score; and one felt specially pleased to notice that so genuine an artsit as Mr Aynsley Cook, reappearing in his familiar part of  of the burly, loud-voiced Dancairo, still receives  warm greeting in Glasgow.  His lieutenant, Remendado, was impersonated with all  'looped and windowed raggedness'and smiling gentility by Mr Rhys Thomas, who has a finer tenor voice than is generally possessed by the comedian of 'distinguished good manners.'   Miss Annie Cook and Miss M. Ormerod appeared as Mercedes and Frasquita respectively, and sang their duet in the third act very pleasingly.  The chorus has been brightened by the introduction of several fresh young voies in the female section, and the singing of this faby delicamiliar music by ladies and gentlemen alike was marked by delicacy as well as vocal fullness,  Mr Goossens had the orchestra well in hand from overture to finish."

The Glasgow Herald review (23 November) ran "The Carl Rosa Opera Company brought their engagement to a close at the Theatre-Royal on Saturday by two performances.  In the morning Bizet's Carmen was repeated before an audience which crowded every part of the house.  With two exceptions, the cast was similar to that which appeared on the opening night, and therefore does not require much comment. Mdlle. de Lussan appeared in the title role, and of course her impersonation of the daughter of passion and pleasure was superb both as regards acting and singing.  We had a new Jose in M Jean Dimitresco, and in his hands the character left very little to be desired.   He sang with splendid passion the heavy music of the part.  As regards his acting, at the beginning he became himself as a soldier should, and in the last two acts the struggle between love and jealousy, which at the dénouement maddens him into crime, was intense in its realism.  Mr Alec Marsh is not a new Escamillo, and he acted and sang with great spirit.  Of course, the toreador's song had to be repeated.  Miss Esty again fully pleased her audience as Michaella, both vocally and otherwise.  Mr Aynsley Cook, Mr Rhys Thomas, Miss Annie Cook, and Miss M. Ormerod also filled their parts with satisfaction."

The Scotsman review (30 November) noted "Its popularity shows no signs of waning; for on Saturday it was witnessed by one of the largest audiences of the week.  Probably not a few were driven to the theatre by the promise that Mdlle. de Lussan was to appear in the title role, as that lady is generally recognised as clearly the best Carmen who has been heard in the provinces.  Another disappointment, however, was in store for that audience, for following in the footsteps of Madame Burns, Mdlle de Lussan appears to have become indisposed some time before the performance.  The public has good reason to complain of those sudden changes of cast; nor does it appear clear why, when there is time to print  a notice of the 'temporary hoarseness' of the prima donna in the theatre bills, the same intimation might not have been made public in the newspaper advertisements.  But this is by the way.  It would be an injustice to say that the substitute provided "at a few hours' notice" was in any sense inadequate.  On the contrary, Madame Louise Lablache may be congratulated on having made what was decidedly her best appearance before the Edinburgh public as yet, and at the same time to have given an impersonation of the impussive, heartless yet fascinating Carmen, which in many points compares most favourably with thos of other artists better known to the public.  Vocally Madame Lablache has made great strides since the last visit of the company, and though she still tends to overdo the vibrato device, the excessive richness and fullness of her voice more than compensates for the fault.  Mr Jean Dimitresco again gave unmistakable proofs that he has a tenor voice of rare quality, range, and power. His ringing upper notes in especial have a billiancy which certainly very few living tenors cold equal.   His worst fault is a tendency to sing occasionally out of tune, though this was by no means so noticeable in his rendering of Jose's music than on previous occasions.  His gesture is still exceedingly conventional and spasmodic; and his acqquaintance with the rules of pronunciation of English somewhat elementary.  These defects prevent him from being anything like an ideal Jose; but fortunately they are defects which may in large part be removed by intelligent study.  Were that achieved, it is not difficult to imagine that Mr Dimitrasco might rival the greatest tenors on the lyric stage.  In the charming little part of Michaela, Miss M.  Ormerod acheived a distinct success.  Her light soprano voice is of very sweet and penetrating quality, her method is sound, and her style of acting is intelligent and unaffected.  With the exception of Mr L. Pringle, who made a very favourable impression in the minor role of Zuniga, the remaining parts were in the hands of members of the company who have played them before, and they call for no comment."

Performance Cast

Micaëla a peasant girl

Alice Esty (Nov 9; Dec 2)

Miss M Ormerod (Nov 28)

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Durward Lely (Nov 9)

Jean Dimitresco

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Lempriere Pringle

Carmen a gypsy

Zélie de Lussan (Nov 9)

Louise Lablache

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Annie Cook (Nov 9, 28)

Annette Laubach (Dec 2)

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Miss M Ormerod (Nov 9; Dec 2)

Miss A Roe (Nov 28)

Escamillo a toreador

Leslie Crotty

Dancaïre a smuggler

Aynsley Cook

Remendado a smuggler

Rhys Thomas 2

Performance DatesCarmen 1891

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 Nov, 19.30 21 Nov, 14.00

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

28 Nov, 14.00 2 Dec, 19.30

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2021

Site by SiteBuddha