Opera Scotland

Trovatore 1858Mr Wyndham's Italian Opera Company

Read more about the opera Trovatore

September was not seen as the ideal time for an opera company to visit Edinburgh, as the 'season' had not yet got under way, and many of the regular potential audience members must still have been away at their country estates, or even abroad. The theatre would be difficult to fill. Nevertheless, one of the opera stars of the time, the young soprano Marietta Piccolomini, who had previously enjoyed success in the city, was about to sail on her first visit to the USA. She had therefore embarked on a 'farewell tour' of the UK, supported by singers from Benjamin Lumley's company at Her Majesty's Theatre in London. It was only to be expected that the local theatrical management, led by Mr R H Wyndham, of 95 Prince's Street, would secure a visit. The company was small - a chorus of a dozen voices, with an orchestra not much bigger. No conductor has been identified as yet.

There was only time for four operatic performances in total, three at the Queen's Theatre in Edinburgh, with a fourth at the Theatre Royal in Glasgow. They would then, presumably, embark for the Atlantic crossing. The Edinburgh schedule was: Mon 20 Sep Il trovatore; Tue 21 Sep La traviata; Wed 22 Sep La figlia del reggimento (for Donizetti's frothy French comedy was given in Italian).  The following day, the company took the train to Glasgow, where the advertised performance of Il trovatore was scheduled for the evening of Thu 23 Sep. However the company's dramatic tenor, Antonio Giuglini, had developed a cold after singing in Traviata. While just able to nurse his voice through the short concert that followed the Donizetti, to sing Manrico was out of the question. A second performance of Donizetti's genial comedy was therefore substituted.

While Trovatore quickly developed enormous popularity, and had already been seen in Edinburgh a couple of years earlier, the enthusiasm of its reception, at least by the press, was far from unanimous. The Caledonian Mercury was still not convinced - 'The attraction was Verdi's opera Il Trovatore, generally considered, as a dramatic poem, one of his worst, and as a musical composition, one of his best.......The instrumentation is clever and effective throughout, and in many parts the music is highly dramatic. Beyond this there is little to commend. The melodies are anything but original: they are mainly repetitions of his previous works, mixed with imitations of Bellini and Donizetti, altered in character by orchestral treatment and often much diluted in expression. From first to last, we listen in vain for the higher qualities of music.' Later it adds- 'but the gems of the opera were contained principally in the last act, in which Giuglini, with his truly magnificent voice, and Piccolomini, with the transcendant fascination of her acting, entirely carried the audience into a rhapsody of enthusiasm.'

The view of the Edinburgh Evening Courant - The buoyant and genial disposition of Mlle Piccolomini seems, no doubt, better fitted for such parts as Norina, Maria, or even Violetta, but she nevertheless sustained the more tragic representation of Leonora with a remarkable degree of power and impassioned energy..........As the piece went on, the power of the performer gained upon us, and towards the close we had not only the most exquisite vocalisation, penetrated so to speak with tender and passionate expression, but the execution of a consummate actor depicting the sorrows of a tragic destiny.'

The Courant's view of the tenor, Giuglini, was extremely positive - 'He has few rivals indeed, and probably no superior. For clear and sonorous delivery, or for power of voice, there are others we might prefer, but for tenderness of expression, for soft and gentle touch of melody, we do not know that he is excelled.' The baritone was more mixed - 'Signor Aldighieri....was fully equal to most of his predecessors, but at the same time did not outstrip them in any way calling for special notice. He did not come up to our wishes in that gem of melody, ''Il balen,'' but in the succeeding air, ''Ora per me fatale,'' he showed considerable vocal as well as dramatic power.

The cast for Il trovatore, the closest to complete that survives as yet, is as advertised in the Glasgow Morning Journal of 22 September, before it was known that the performance would not take place. Reviews of the Edinburgh performance only nention the four leading roles.

Performance Cast

Ferrando captain of Di Luna's guard

Signor Castelli

Inez confidante of Leonora

Madlle Martinetti

Leonora a Duchess, lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon

Marietta Piccolomini

Manrico a chieftain under the Prince of Biscay

Antonio Giuglini

Count di Luna a young noble of Aragon

Signor Aldighieri

Azucena a Biscayan gypsy woman

Madame Ghioni

Ruiz a soldier in Manrico's service

Signor Mercuriali

Performance DatesTrovatore 1858

Map List

Queen's Theatre | Edinburgh

20 Sep, 20.00

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