Chisholm returns to Glasgow
Given his links to Glasgow going back between the wars, it is hardly surprising that Dr Erik Chisholm included that city as well as London on the tour schedule for his South African Music Group. (In London they were billed as the Cape Town University Opera Company). What must have been welcome was the choice of repertoire. Chisholm had been based in Cape Town since 1945 and had revitalised the musical life of the city. As Dean of the Faculty of Music he had already mounted some very unexpected works.
The London season included six varied recital programmes at the Wigmore Hall, followed by two operatic evenings at the intimate Rudolf Steiner Theatre. This repertoire was repeated in Glasgow, with recitals in the McLellan Galleries, and operas, originally announced for the Athenaeum, eventually offered at the Lyric Theatre.
The varied concert presentations included much from the central classical repertoire, but also works by Hindemith, Bartók and even Janáček (Diary of a Man Who Disappeared and Rikadla).
The two operatic programmes were firstly The Consul by Menotti and secondly a double-bill, Chisholm's own opera The Inland Woman, and what was the British stage premiere of Duke Bluebeard's Castle by Bartók - a composer who Chisholm had actually brought to Glasgow for a visit some years before the war.
While the BBC had previously broadcast Duke Bluebeard's Castle on the Third Programme (now Radio 3), Bartók's only opera had never been staged in Britain before. It was particularly unfortunate that this enterprise was carried forward with a much reduced orchestra of freelance players - fifteen musicians who may not have had much rehearsal time. John Purser's biography of Chisholm reveals that the idea for this reduction was approved by Bartók's son Peter, from his base in New York. This pragmatic move was perhaps in the hope of encouraging more performances, and perhaps as an experiment to see if it could work in a more intimate form.
The opera necessarily had its impact significantly limited, though the two singers were generally well received by the critics in both cities. It would be a further six years before the Hungarian State Opera and Ballet unleashed the full power of the work on an Edinburgh audience.
Cast details are as reported in the press in both cities. No copies of the programme have yet been traced.
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