Opera Scotland

Tosca 1961Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Tosca

A new production with the leading members of the Sadler’s Wells company on display.  New Zealand-born Warwick Braithwaite was a veteran whose conducting career went back to the twenties, and he was a former music director of the SNO.

Peter Glossop and Charles Craig were on the threshold of their international careers – in London they would in future sing mostly at Covent Garden. However they both sang frequently with Scottish Opera through the next twenty years.

Director Dennis Arundell only worked with Scottish Opera once, but he directed both the opening productions in June 1962.

A brief backstage fire caused a lttle excitement before the performance.

Sadly, this was the week of the last visit by Sadler’s Wells to Dundee’s Gaumont (formerly King’s) Theatre. Shortly afterwards, the builders moved in and the stage, proscenium and boxes were ripped out, along with large sections of the upper circle. A false ceiling was inserted and the back wall of the stage became a wide cinema screen – never an entirely successful one. The theatre later became a bingo hall and then a night club.  At present (2020) it is essentially derelict, and the restoration campaign which prevented its demolition in the nineties is still around.

One highly ironic element of the press reports from Dundee can only be looked on with regret.  The final comment, after the last performances, including The Land of Smiles, is fulsome praise for Dundee audiences, regularly providing over 90%of capacity.  The Sadler's Wells spokesman is young company manager Peter Hemmings.  This is sevral years before he moved to Glasgow to manage Scottish Opera.  How sad that he was so aware of the potential of Dundee as a centre to visit, if only a suitable theatre had existed.

 

Dundee Press Report

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Tuesday, May 2, 1961

“Tosca” - a triumph over adversity

'Like good troupers the Sadler’s Wells Opera Company triumphed over the smoke and the unsettling psychological effects of the contretemps which began their week at Dundee Gaumont Theatre last night with Puccini’s Tosca.  Victoria Elliott, singing Floria Tosca again here with her customary dramatic fire; Charles Craig, a mellifluous Cavaradossi; and Peter Glossop a Scarpia of unusual power - all three shared ovations from the full house.

'As Miss Elliott’s capabilities as an actress and soprano dramatist were well known, and though she divided the honours, the main interest centred on Glossop’s interpretation of the crafty, lecherous chief of police.  This artiste made a great impression here with his Rigoletto, and last night he added Scarpia to outstanding operatic memories.  From an acting point of view the study was intensely detailed - it combined the essence of vileness with personal grace.  His main attribute in a vocal sense is his ability to produce large quantities of lusty baritone with no trace of ‘wobble’.  His performance was a tour de force of Puccini’s ardent, sensual music.

'Miss Elliott produced many vivid effects in her upper register, and emerged victorious - even in some tussles with an occasionally overenthusiastic volume from the orchestra pit.  She gave a moving performance as the distracted prima donna, and in the famed second act aria, “Love and Music”, her art as an actress matched its musical pathos.

'The tenor role, less important dramatically, contains two of Puccini’s greatest arias for this voice - “Strange Harmony” (Act I) and “When Stars Shining Brightly” (Act III).  Charles Craig, whose beautiful voice has previously been heard here in Puccini and Verdi operas, delivered them with an artistic mixture of melodic grace and powerful tone.

'This was a new production of Tosca by Dennis Arundell, with several effective changes and new ideas - notably a religious procession forming a background to the simmering drama of Act I.  Harold Blackburn’s sacristan stood head and shoulders above the rest of the supporting cast.  Tosca is lusty drama and vociferous music.  The production fully realised the red-blooded vitals of Sardou’s plot and Puccini’s vivid score.

'At times, if the singers are to be heard in climaxes, the conductor has to emasculate the orchestral sound - a mighty difficult decision. On the whole, Warwick Braithwaite’s conducting solved the balance problems admirably, with reservations about the first act.  The orchestral playing was particularly fine, I thought, in the nostalgic introduction to Act III.'

 

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 Seville, Cinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Traviata);  Offenbach (Orpheus in the Underworld);  J Strauss (Fledermaus); Puccini (Bohème, Tosca);  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 are from OperaScotland's copy of the Dundee programme.

Performance Cast

Cesare Angelotti former Consul, now a political prisoner

Bernard Turgeon (May 1)

Sacristan

Harold Blackburn (May 1)

Mario Cavaradossi a painter

Charles Craig (May 1)

Floria Tosca a famous singer

Victoria Elliott (May 1)

Baron Scarpia Chief of Police

Peter Glossop (May 1)

Spoletta police agent

Cragg Sinkinson (May 1)

Sciarrone police officer

Kenneth Fawcett (May 1)

Shepherd boy

Gloria Jennings (May 1)

Gaoler

Charles Draper (May 1)

Performance DatesTosca 1961

Map List

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

21 Apr, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

26 Apr, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

1 May, 19.30

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