Opera Scotland

Land of Smiles 1961Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Land of Smiles

A couple of seasons after the huge popularity of The Merry Widow, Sadler's Wells followed it with a later piece by Lehár, and with an almost equal success.

The director was, again, Charles Hickman, a veteran of West End productions. Less well known at this stage, was the young choreographer Peter Darrell.  Almost a decade later, in 1969, his company, Western Theatre Ballet, would relocate to Glasgow, where, as Scottish Ballet, it would continue to thrive, even surviving his sadly early death.

This time, the spectacular designs almost stole the show, though that would have been difficult with Ronald Dowd in the part created by Tauber, with his hit song 'You are my heart's delight' (or in this translation, 'Love, let me dream again').  It was Dowd's habit to repeat the piece after the curtain-calls, to the great delight of the packed audiences.

 

Dundee Press Report

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, May 6, 1961

Melodies of Lehar in a lavish setting

'Features of the Sadler’s Wells Opera’s production of The Land of Smiles at Dundee Gaumont Theatre last night were a marvellous series of costumes displayed in the second act - and fine operatic voices singing the popular melodies of Franz Lehar, the king of Viennese operetta. Sadler’s Wells staging is always of a high standard, but in the dressing of this show (designer Berkeley Sutcliffe) previous achievements in the light musical field were surpassed.

'The story brings a Viennese society girl to the Peking palace of Prince Sou-Chong, leading to inevitable conflict between the marital outlook of Europe and (old) China. The palace set gave the opportunity for lavish displays of costuming and colour.  First it was a golden theme, and later another feast for the eye in divers shades, with dancers and court groups making a rare spectacle.

'A full house enjoyed the operetta in which the late Richard Tauber popularised the tenor songs in the 1930s - notably the “theme” song, “You Are My Heart’s Delight”.  In the translation used last night, this became “Love, Let Me Dream Again”. 

Ronald Dowd, the tenor, whose voice in the part of Prince Sou-Chong bore reminiscences of Tauber’s, had a big success with this number, giving an encore first and a repeat later with chorus at the final curtain. Mr Dowd, a versatile artiste, who has been heard here previously in roles as diverse as Florestan in Fidelio and Pinkerton in Butterfly, sang and acted with his customary power and sensitivity.

'Ava June (Lisa) showed what a well-equipped romantic soprano with powerful top notes can do with operetta music, though the heroine’s part does not contain the “plums” given to the tenor. 

John Heddle Nash diverted his admirers with an engaging performance as Lisa’s faithful follower Gustlo. The charm he has shown as Figaro came this time in the character of a light comedian. But it was a pity he got so little singing to do.

'The same applied to another fine baritone, Denis Dowling, confined largely to a speaking part as Sou-Chong’s uncle.

Petite Iris Kells sang and acted with delightful naïveté as the Prince’s sister. With so many people filling the stage at times, why the composer neglected to provide more than one and a half choruses to sing seemed curious. 

The orchestra was directed by David Tod Boyd.'

Nearly 90 per cent

            'By this evening, when the curtain goes down on Sadler’s Wells Opera’s week in Dundee, the audiences will have totalled at least 8750, just under 90 per cent of capacity.  This is based only on bookings made for this afternoon (The Land of Smiles) and this evening (The Barber of Seville). As seats are still available today, the final percentage may be over 90.

            “Very satisfactory.  Dundee has again proved itself well up in the higher percentages of audiences in the places we visit on tour,” said the company’s manager, Mr Peter Hemmings, last night. “And, of course, the company look forward to coming here because the Dundee audiences are so appreciative.”

 

Sadler's Wells Opera in Scotland - 1961

There were two Scottish visits, with Aberdeen omitted altogether. The Spring tour of three weeks began on 17 April and visited Glasgow (Empire), Edinburgh (King's) and Dundee (Gaument). This was the final visit to Dundee before the Gaumont's closure. In Autumn the company returned on 13 November to the Glasgow Empire followed by a week in Edinburgh.

The ten operas on the tour were:  Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Rossini (Barber of SevilleCinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Traviata);  Offenbach (Orpheus in the Underworld);  J Strauss (Fledermaus); Puccini (BohèmeTosca);  Lehár (Land of Smiles).

The Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 17 April:  Mon 17 Traviata;  Tue 18 Barber of Seville;  Wed 19 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 20 Fledermaus;  Fri 21 Tosca;  Sat 22 m Fledermaus;  Sat 22 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 24 April:  Mon 24 Traviata;  tue 25 Barber of Seville;  Wed 26 Tosca;  Thu 27 Land of Smiles;  Fri 28 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 29 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 29 e Barber of Seville.

Dundee, w/c  1 May:  Mon 1 Tosca;  Tue 2 Traviata;  Wed 3 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 4 Barber of Seville;  Fri 5 Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 6 November:  Mon 6 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 7 Bohème;  Wed 8 Cinderella;  Thu 9 Traviata;  Fri 10 Tannhäuser;  Sat 11 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 11 e Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 13 November:  Mon 13 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 14 Tannhäuser;  Wed 15 Bohème;  Thu 16 Traviata;  Fri 17 Cinderella;  Sat 18 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 18 e Bohème.

Cast details for Dundee are from the ENO archive.

Performance DatesLand of Smiles 1961

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

27 Apr, 19.30 29 Apr, 14.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

5 May, 19.30 6 May, 14.30

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