Opera Scotland

Elektra 1912Denhof Opera Company

Read more about the opera Elektra

The most adventurously modernistic of Richard Strauss' operas opened in Dresden in 1909. Its London premiere the following year made front page news even in the 'provincial' press.  Interest was therefore keen when the first performance in Scotland, given by the Denhof company, took place in 1912. The production had opened in Hull on 28 February, before touring to Manchester, Liverpool, Leeds, Glasgow and then Edinburgh.

Such was the interest that critics even travelled from north of the central belt to assess the new piece.

The critic of the Herald hailed the performance as 'wonderfully good' but blamed the fact that the house was not crowded in some of its upper reaches on the current 'industrial troubles' (there was a lengthy miners' strike in progress, that was causing severe restrictions to rail transport). He drew attention to the fact that the size of the orchestra had been somewhat reduced, albeit presented in a version prepared by Strauss himself. Nevertheless,there was 'no lack of stormy eloquence' and the piece was conducted with genuine insight. The performance left the audience in a 'highly excited state'.

Given the intimate size of the Lyceum, the Edinburgh performances must have confronted audences with a quite overwhelming sound.

The cast was led by the redoubtable Florence Easton, an English soprano still in her mid-twenties, and based in Berlin. She sang a range of big dramatic parts, and yet, in 1918, having moved to the USA, she was still able to create, at the New York Met, the far more lyric role of the juvenile lead Lauretta in Puccini's comedy Gianni Schicchi.

The importance of the occasion is attested to by the fact that the Denhof company not only had two conductors able to lead performances, but had covers available for the main roles. Doris Woodall and Thomas Meux had already sung their parts at the start of the tour, in Hull, and at a performance in Leeds the title-role had been taken at short notice by Cicely Gleeson-White. Maurice D'Oisly may have been given the afternoon off because he was singing Erik in The Flying Dutchman in the evening - but then Frederic Austin sang the much longer title-role, yet still sang Orest in the afternoon.

This was the third season of the Denhof company and shows increasing ambition of repertoire and extent of touring. The Manchester week, commencing 4 March 1912, had the following programme: Mon Mastersingers; Tue Orpheus and Euridice; Wed Tristan and Isolde; Thu Elektra (local premiere); Fri Flying Dutchman; Sat mat Elektra; Sat eve Mastersingers.

A programme survives for Edinburgh performances in the Weir collection at the National Library of Scotland. It lists the five maids who open proceedings as Lena Maitland, Ella Bailey and Toni Seiter, Molly Deane and Alice Cory, in that order, but without allocating specific parts. A similar listing for the Manchester visit gives a slightly different order - that cast is from a poster in Manchester City Library, while briefer details of the Glasgow performance are taken from reviews in the Dundee Courier and Glasgow Herald.

Performance Cast

First Maid

Lena Maitland

Second Maid

Ella Bailey

Third Maid

Toni Seiter

Fourth Maid

Molly Deane

Fifth Maid

Alice Cory

Overseer

Florence Ludwig

Elektra daughter of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon

Florence Easton

Cicely Gleeson-White (Mar 9m)

Chrysothemis sister to Elektra and Orest

Edith Evans

Klytämnestra widow of Agamemnon

Marie Brema (Mar 7, 28; Apr 1)

Doris Woodall (Mar 9m; Apr 3)

Confidante

Miss A Sullivan

Trainbearer

Norah Roy

Young Servant

Jacques Skrobisch

Old Servant

Gaston Sargeant

Orest son of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon

Frederic Austin

Tutor in Orest's service

Gaston Sargeant

Aegisth Klytämnestra's lover

Maurice D' Oisly (Mar 7, 9m, 26; Apr 1)

Thomas Meux (Apr 3)

Performance DatesElektra 1912

Map List

Grand Theatre, Hull | Hull

29 Feb, 20.00 2 Mar, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Manchester | Manchester

7 Mar, 20.00 9 Mar, 14.00

Shakespeare Theatre | Liverpool

11 Mar, 20.00 13 Mar, 20.00

Theatre Royal, Leeds | Leeds

21 Mar, 20.00 23 Mar, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

26 Mar, 20.00

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

1 Apr, 20.00 3 Apr, 14.00

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