Opera Scotland

John Socman 1952Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera John Socman

According to a brief review in the Glasgow Herald (10 May) "But for a somewhat contrived ending the plot is well constructed, though some pruning would not be unwelcome. The music has no very marked individuality, and the composer's lavish use of his orchestral resources results in some monotony for the ear, because of the thick texture of the scoring and the continuou busy figuration. But it is undoubtedly a singable opera, giving many opportunities to both soloists and chorus, and it was a little timorous of the company, and scarcely fair to the composer, to produce it only once during the four weeks' Glasgow season. The part of Socman, a more complex character than might be imagined from a bare outling of the plot, was splendidly sung and acted by Redvers Llewellyn. As Sybil, his unwilling bride, Ruth Packer was in her usual good form, and Alice Gange sang well as the Gleemaiden."

The Edinburgh evening was only the sixth performance of Lloyd's John Socman in eleven months, and the first in Scotland. Although the Arts Council had commissioned the piece for the 1951 Festival of Britain, they did not provide any subsidy for the tour, so the company could only afford to risk it in the bigger venues. Given the infrequency of outings, it is astonishing that the performance was as good as reports suggest this one to have been.

The original cast was still in harness, with the single exception of the important role of the French Gleemaiden, originally taken by the ex-pat Czech Gita Denise. This was the first occasion on which Alice Gange had appeared in the role. Hubert Dunkerley's Carl Rosa career went right back to 1919, while most of the other soloists were leading performers in their prime.

The failure to show the new opera during a single week in Aberdeen may not be a surprise. It does seem odd that even during the four week Glasgow season, John Socman only received one performance. Both Scottish showings were on a Friday, thus allowing several days for Arthur Hammond and Edward Downes to train the extra freelance musicians who augmented the regular touring players. Given the four week gap between Edinburgh and Glasgow performances, the chorus and principals would also have benefitted from such rehearsal time.

Edward Downes went on to have a long and distinguished conducting career, particularly with the Royal Opera and the BBC Philharmonic. For this season he was a repetiteur with the Carl Rosa and was the second conductor in harness with Arthur Hammond (though we have not yet confirmed what he conducted in Scotland). The intensive rehearsals he must have accompanied for John Socman seem to have given him a lasting attachment to George Lloyd's music, and he championed revivals and recordings of several symphonic works in later years. The company's Chorus Master at this time was the young New Zealander John Matheson, who also enjoyed a long and successful conducting career.

The full Scottish schedule was as follows:

Aberdeen (His Majesty's) - Week commencing 31 March: Mon Carmen, Tue Rigoletto, Wed Traviata, Thu Faust, Fri Barber of Seville, Sat mat Bohème, Sat eve Trovatore.

Edinburgh (King's) - Week commencing 7 April: Mon Flying Dutchman, Tue Bohème, Wed Barber of Seville, Thu Rigoletto, Fri John Socman, Sat mat Butterfly, Sar eve Faust.

Week commencing Monday 14 April: Mon Cav & Pag, Tue Traviata, Wed Trovatore, Thu Butterfly, Fri Tosca, Sat mat Bohème, Sat eve Carmen.

Glasgow (Theatre Royal) - Week commencing Monday 21 April: Mon Traviata, Tue Bohème, Wed Barber, Thu Dutchman, Fri Rigoletto, Sat mat Butterfly, Sat eve Faust.

W/c Monday 28 April: Mon Barber, Tue Hoffmann, Wed Butterfly, Thu Cav & Pag, Fri Carmen, Sat mat Bohème, Sat eve Trovatore.

Wk/c Monday 5 May: Mon Carmen, Tue Dutchman, Wed Rigoletto, Thu Faust, Fri John Socman, Sat mat Carmen, Sat eve Bohème.

Week commencing Monday 12 May: Mon Butterfly, Tue Tosca, Wed Hoffmann, Thu Trovatore, Fri Traviata, Sat mat Barber, Sat eve Cav & Pag.

Cast details are from a copy of the Glasgow programme in the Opera Scotland collection (covering Thursday's Faust as well as Friday's John Socman). There is also one in the Mitchell library.

Performance Cast

John Socman a Magistrate

Redvers Llewellyn

Richard a young archer, engaged to Sybil

John Myrddin

Brother Tom a low friar

Tudor Davies

Warner a scholar and Lollard

Ernest Thomas

Sir Hugh Mannay a Knight returning from Agincourt

Arthur Wallington

Timothy a young countryman

Gwent Lewis

Mawle Sheriff's Officer

Hubert Dunkerley

Gower John Socman's servant

Frederick Wood

Farmer

Richard Golding

First Farmer's Son

Edwin Jepps

Second Farmer's Son

Ronald Eddolls

Innkeeper

Eric Shepherd

Tumbler

Catherine O'Hare

Gleemaiden a wandering Frenchwoman

Alice Gange

Sybil a village girl, Warner's daughter

Ruth Packer

Performance DatesJohn Socman 1952

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

11 Apr, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 May, 19.15

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