Opera Scotland

Tristan und Isolde 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tristan and Isolde

It really is a strange feature of this tour that so many works should have been given two performances, one in each city.  And yet the standard of performance does appear to have been maintained.  Here, for instance the great Australian Wagner specialist was unable to perform, but a substitute was able to travel up from London and go on without rehearsal.

Cast details for 14 October are also taken from a programme in the Mitchell Library collection, though this gives no indication that there was a late substitution in the role of Isolde.

 

Glasgow Review

The Glasgow Herald  on Friday, 15 October (p13) reviewed the production:

'Last night the British National Opera Company produced Tristan and Isolde in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.  A production of this great work is an event at any time both for those producing it and for the audience, but last night's performance will be specially remembered by Mr Frederic Austin and his associates by reason of the added anxieties that attended its preparation.  Miss Florence Austral, who had been specially engaged to sing the part of Isolde, was unable to appear owing to a severe cold, and Miss Beatrice Miranda accepted an eleventh hour invitation to take her place.  In doing so, Miss Miranda showed real heroism, as she had not sung the part for three and a half years, and only arrived in the city late yesterday afternoon after travelling from London.

'She scored a distinct success in her singing and impersonation of this exacting role under these great disadvantages.  It was remarkable that she could sing at all immediately after so long a train journey, and though the lower half of her voice showed by the smallness of tone that she was tired, the top of her range was brilliant and of fine quality.  She made an excellent effect with her big climax in the first act, and throughout the evening showed great resource. The audience are much indebted to her for making last night's Tristan possible.

'Mr Frank Mullings furnished in good style the Tristan, with which Glasgow audiences are most familiar.  He has all the requirements for the part and last evening was most successful in the more heroic moments.  In the quiet lyricism of some portions of the great love duet from act two the artistic result was sometimes lessened by those little mannerisms of vowelling, with their hurtful effect on tone quality, which have been manifesting themselves lately; but during the whole of the third act he did fine work, and added his full share to the drama and pathos of this wonderful scene, one of the finest that even Wagner has devised.

'Mr Robert Parker as Kurvenal, helped also in this scene, giving an appealing presentation of this well conceived character.  The Brangäne of Miss Constance Willis was a very interesting performance, showing fine qualities, but showing also that she is not yet quite inside the part.  This clever artist will certainly make more of it with further experience.  Last evening her singing was sometimes very level, and did not echo the dramatic interest of her text.  Particularly when the voice is only lightly supported she should study to sing with more intimacy, and to control the volume of her wonderful voice.  She did so sometimes last evening with great effect, as at the words ''Mindest thou not thy mother's arts?'' but could do so more often.

'Mr Norman Allin sang well as King Mark. It is an ungrateful role, and even Mr Allin could not make it wholly interesting.  Mr Sydney Russell gave a sympathetic study of the shepherd, and the cast was completed by Mr Liddell Peddieson as Melot, Mr Parry Jones as the sailor and Mr Philip Bertram as the steersman.

'In the special circumstances of last night's production, Mr Eugene Goossens, sen, who conducted, had to shoulder added responsibilities.  He showed great resource in the specially anxious circumstances, and if there were some ragged moments in the orchestra, there were also many periods when the playing was very good.  The horns ''off'' at the opening of the second act were not managed with the usual BNOC success, showing some lack of balance and failing to give the requisite suggestion of increasing distance; but by way of compensation the shepherd's cor anglais was most effective.  Some of the best work of Mr Goossens was done in the building up of climaxes, and the orchestra on the whole furnished a very eloquent commentary on the stage drama.  The opera was beautifully mounted.'

 

Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman of Friday, 29 October (p8) reviewed the previous evening's performance:

'There is no more difficult opera to put upon the stage satisfactorily than Tristan and Isolde.  It makes immense demands upon the interpretative powers of the artists engaged, while as a drama it is so simple in its structure that there is nothing to distract the attention from any flaw in singing, acting, or in the orchestra.  In addition, it is conceived on a scale of such intense emotionalism that any incongruous note in its stagecraft would have an almost ruinous effect.  It is an opera to be done well or not at all, and an opportunity, such as that of last night, at the King's Theatre, of hearing it under adequate conditions of performance was something for which to be proportionatel grateful.

'It is four years since Tristan was last given in Edinburgh by the British National Opera Company, and it is not without interest that on that occasion the Tristan and the Isolde were the same as last night, Mr Frank Mullings and Miss Beatrice Miranda.  Mr Mullings's Tristan, like the other rôles in which he has appeared during the present visit to Edinburgh of the Company, has become more reserved and has gained greatly thereby in effect.  He sang last night with a beauty of tone which was preserved even in the frenzied outbursts in the third act, while in his acting there was throughout a noble simplicity.  It was a fine performance, which served as an illustration of the fact that a great artist always goes on improving.

'As Isolde, Miss Miranda was heard at her best.  Vocally very effective, the interpretation was convincing in its dignity and passion.  Miss Gladys Ancrum's Brangäne was another admirable interpretation, her fine voice being used to great advantage.  Mr Norman Allin's King Mark was appropriately impressive, and Mr Herbert Langley's Kurwenal was a picturesque presentation of one of the most human and likeable of all Wagner's creations.  Mr Parry Jones sang the music of the young sailor very well, and Mr Liddell Peddieson as Melot, Mr Philip Bertram as the steersman and Mr Sydney Russell as the shepherd, completed the cast.

'Mr Eugene Goossens, sen, conducted.  The staging of the opera was artistic, the garden scene and Tristan's castle providing fine stage pictures, while the fight in the last act was well managed.'

 

BNOC in Scotland 1926

The company spent three weeks in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh - 1927 would see them venturing further north. Wagner and Puccini led the field, with four operas each. 

There were a total of four works by three composers of the French school. Verdi was represented by one middle-period and two late masterpieces. Notably there were two recently composed British works - something BNOC would never achieve again.

The 20 operas performed in Scotland on this tour were:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Wagner (Tannhäuser Tristan and IsoldeMastersingers,  Parsifal);  Verdi (Rigoletto,  Aïda,  Otello);  Gounod (Faust,  Romeo and Juliet);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème ToscaMadam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Bryson (Leper's Flute).

 

The performance schedule was as follows:

Glasgow, w/c 27 September:  Mon 27  Aïda;  Tue 28  Carmen;  Wed 29 m Faust;  Wed 29 e Madam Butterfly;  Thu 30  Parsifal;  Fri Oct 01  Tosca;  Sat 02 m  Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 02 e  Tales of Hoffmann.

Glasgow, w/c 04 October:  Mon 04 Romeo and Juliet; Tue 05 Otello; Wed 06 m  No Perf;  Wed 06 e Bohème;  Thu 07 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 08 Mastersingers;  Sat 09 m Aïda;  Sat 09 e Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 11 October:  Mon 11 Parsifal;  Tue 12  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci; Wed 13 m Romeo and Juliet;  Wed 13 e Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 14  Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 15 Leper's Flute;  Sat 16 m Madam Butterfly;  Sat 16 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 18 October:  Mon 18 Romeo and Juliet;  Tue 19 Leper's Flute;  Wed 20 m Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 20 e  Otello;  Thu 21  Parsifal;  Fri 22  Aïda;  Sat 23 m Hugh the Drover;  Sat 23 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 25 October:  Mon 25 Rigoletto;  Tue 26 Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci;  Wed 27 m Madam Butterfly;  Wed 27 e Tosca;  Thu 28 Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 29 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 30 m Parsifal;  Sat 30 e Bohème.

Performance Cast

Sailor

Parry Jones (Oct 14, 28)

Isolde an Irish princess

Beatrice Miranda (Oct 14, 28)

Brangäne Isolde's attendant

Constance Willis (Oct 14)

Gladys Ancrum (Oct 28)

Tristan a Cornish knight

Frank Mullings (Oct 14, 28)

Kurwenal Tristan's squire

Robert Parker (Oct 14)

Herbert Langley (Oct 28)

Melot a Cornish courtier

Liddell Peddieson (Oct 14, 28)

King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle

Norman Allin (Oct 14, 28)

Shepherd

Sydney Russell (Oct 14, 28)

Steersman

Philip Bertram (Oct 14, 28)

Production Cast

Conductor

Eugene Goossens II (Oct 14, 28)

Director

George King

Performance DatesTristan und Isolde 1926

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Oct, 18.15

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

14 Oct, 18.15

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