Opera Scotland

Manon 1927British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Manon

Manon was in danger of dropping from the repertoire when this successful new production was mounted, largely at the behest of Sir Thomas Beecham. Des Grieux became one of Heddle Nash's best roles, and he and Dennis Noble recorded it for a BBC broadcast a decade later (by which time the baritone was singing the bigger role of Lescaut).

The casts are taken from the Scotsman review for 13 October, as well as a programme for 21 October in Edinburgh City Library.  The Dundee cast is from a copy of the programme for 3 November.


Edinburgh Opinion

The Scotsman of Friday, 14 October (p8) said:

'Considering its charm,  the music of Massenet is rather strangely neglected in this country, where he is chiefly represented by occasional appearances of his Scènes Pittoresques in the programmes of orchestral concerts.  His operas have made but little impression here, popular as they are elsewhere.  It was an excellent idea on the part of the directors of the British National Opera Company, therefore, to revive Manon as an example of the work of a composer who has been unduly neglected,  and last night's performance of the opera drew a large and interested audience to the King's Theatre. 

'There are various settings of Manon Lescaut in existence, but it is doubtful whether the Abbé Prevost's story really makes a good subject for an opera.  There are some fine emotional climaxes, and the Manon libretti rely for the most part upon these for their success.    It is in these that Massenet shows to thebest advantage.  Manon's remorse at her contemplated desertion of Des Grieux;  her meeting with him in the Seminary, the gaming house scene, and her death by the roadside, all supplied Massenet with material of which his musical temperament fitted him to make admirable use.

'The interest, however, is not maintained in the intervening portions,  and the music here has rather the suggestion of having been written as appropriate to a type of situation,  rather than being the direct outcome of a type of situation.  Even where he is most conventional, however, Massenet is always graceful.

'The opera was given last night with an excellent cast.  Miss Marguerite Anderson,  a new-comer with a delightful voice,  after a little uncertainty in the opening scene,  had a great success as the unstable Manon, fickle, mercenary, and tender by turns.  Mr Heddle Nash imparted a genuinely romantic feeling to his impersonation of the Chevalier,  and Mr Percy Heming gave real vitality to his impersonation of Lescaut, worthless, but at the last with a redeeming touch to his baseness.  The De Mortfontaine of Mr Sydney Russell was a fine study of the vindictive roué,  Mr Philip Bertram was a distinguished Comte des Grieux,  and Mr Dennis Noble was good as De Bretigny.  The three actresses were cleverly impersonated by Misses Doris Lemon,  Frances Frost,  and Marjorie Parry.  Under the direction of Mr Eugene Goossens snr,  the opera was given with an enjoyable sense of the beauty of its vocal and instrumental texture.

'As a whole, the opera is very chacteristic Massenet - light, brilliant, and with a facile emotionalism which, at some points, however,  does contrive to ring true.  The work had a very cordial reception,  and its repetition next week will no doubt be welcomed by many as an opportunity for verifying or correcting last night's impressions.

'The opera was very tastefully staged, and with the delicate colourings of the various scenes conveyed an effective impression of the period as it is reflected in contemporary French colour prints.' 



BNOC in Scotland 1927

The 1927 Scottish tour included six weeks, two each in Glasgow (Theatre Royal) and Edinburgh (King's), and a further week each in Aberdeen (His Majesty's) and Dundee (King's) - the first time that BNOC went north of the central belt.

Fifteen operas were performed:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Mastersingers,  Valkyrie,  Twilight of the Gods);   Verdi  (Aïda);   Bizet (Carmen);  Saint-Saëns (Samson and Delilah);  Massenet (Manon);   Leoncavallo  (Pagliacci);   Puccini  (Bohème,  Madam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi).

The schedule was as follows:

Glasgow, w/c 26 September:  Mon 26  Barber of Seville;  Tue 27  Magic Flute;  Wed 28 mat  Bohème;  Wed 28 eve  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci:  Thu 29  Valkyrie;  Fri 30  Marriage of Figaro  Sat 01 mat  Madam Butterfly;  Sat 01 eve  Aïda.

Glasgow, w/c 03 October:  Mon 03  Carmen;  Tue 04  Manon;  Wed 05 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 05 eve  Barber of Seville;  Thu 06  Mastersingers;  Fri 07  Samson and Delilah;  Sat 08 mat  Magic Flute;  Sat 08 eve  Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 10 October: Mon 10  Barber of Seville; Tue 11  Mastersingers;  Wed 12 mat  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci;  Wed 12 eve  Magic Flute;  Thu 13  Manon;  Fri 14  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 15 mat  Bohème;  Sat 15 eve  Samson and Delilah.

Edinburgh, w/c  17 October:  Mon 17  Barber of Seville;  Tue 18  Twilight of the Gods;  Wed 19 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 19 eve  Tannhäuser;  Thu 20  Carmen;  Fri 21  Manon;  Sat 22 mat  Magic Flute;  Sat 22 eve  Aïda.

Aberdeen, w/c 24 October:  Mon 24  Barber of Seville;  Tue 25  Twilight of the Gods;  Wed 26 mat  Magic Flute;  Wed 26 eve Manon;  Thu 27 Mastersingers;  Fri 28  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 29 mat  Madam Butterfly;  Sat 29 eve Aïda.

Dundee, w/c 31 October: Mon 31  Mastersingers;  Tue 01 Nov  Barber of Seville;  Wed 02 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 02 eve  Madam Butterfly;  Thu 03  Manon;  Fri 04  Valkyrie;  Sat 05 mat  Bohème;  Sat 05 eve  Aïda.

Performance Cast

Guillot de Morfontaine Finance Minister

Sydney Russell (Oct 13, 21; Nov 3)

De Br├ętigny a nobleman

Dennis Noble (Oct 13; Nov 3)

Ralph Humble (Oct 21)

Poussette an actress

Doris Lemon (Oct 21; Nov 3)

Javotte an actress

Marjorie Parry (Oct 21; Nov 3)

Rosette an actress

Frances Frost (Oct 21; Nov 3)


Bernard Ross (Oct 21; Nov 3)

Lescaut a Guards officer, Manon's cousin

Herbert Langley (Oct 21)

Percy Heming (Nov 3)

Manon Manon Lescaut

Marguerite Anderson (Oct 13, 21; Nov 3)

Chevalier des Grieux

Heddle Nash (Oct 13, 21; Nov 3)

Comte des Grieux the Chevalier's father

Philip Bertram (Oct 13, 21; Nov 3)


Jessie Mitchell (Oct 21; Nov 3)

Performance DatesManon 1927

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 Oct, 19.15

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

13 Oct, 19.15 21 Oct, 19.15

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

26 Oct, 19.15

King's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

3 Nov, 19.15

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