Opera Scotland

Faust 1955Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Faust

A short review in the Glasgow Herald (6 May) says the standard of previous productions in the week was well maintained.  "The company are fortunate in this opera in having such a versatile bass as Stanislav Pieczora, who filled the role of Mephistopheles so admirably.  He has a commanding presence and both in voice and appearance can convey a most sinister atmosphere.  Estelle Valery repeated her success of Wednesday night, making an appealing Marguerite. Charles Craig as Faust and John Heddle Nash as Valentine both contributed some good singing."

"The production as a whole was seldom static, though the crowd scenes might occasionally have been better handled, and there were some excellent scenic effects and imaginative touches in the direction. The opera was in the capable hands of Arthur Hammond, who maintained close liaison between the cast and the orchestra throughout the performance."

 

The Carl Rosa organisation was desperately short of funds in its later years. While it was often criticised, with justification, for its shortcomings in stage direction and design, as well as the difficulties it sometimes had with orchestral standards, the management still persevered in introducing novelties on a regular basis. Even an old war-horse ilke Faust received attention, with an attempt to restore Gounod's first thoughts - no baritone aria (composed later for Charles Santley in London) and spoken dialogue instead of turgid recitative.

There was another unusual feature of this tour - the company briefly gained access to several old theatres which now operated as cinemas without, at this point, having lost their stages. Thus the usual two fortnights at the Opera House Belfast and at Glasgow Theatre Royal came after experimental weeks at the Gaumonts in Chester, Doncaster and Preston.

After Glasgow there was a week at the Globe in Stockton-on-Tees before the company came north again for a week at the Dundee Gaumont. This was the Carl Rosa's first Dundee visit since 1928, when the King's had first become a cinema. It was a huge success. Every performance sold out, and an extra Wednesday matinee was added to the schedule. The company returned the following season, and the Dundee date was then taken over by Sadler's Wells with equal success - until the stage was finally ripped out in 1961 - ironically, only a few months before the establishment of Scottish Opera.

Unlike the newly re-introduced Dundee venue, the Glasgow Theatre Royal was a regular feature of Carl Rosa tours. Works shown only in Glasgow were Don Giovanni, Carmen, The Tales of Hoffmann and Tannhäuser. Both cities saw Bohème, Barber of Seville, Cav & Pag, Rigoletto, Trovatore and Faust.

 

Press Reports - Dundee

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Friday, May 27, 1955

Carl Rosa Co. charm with “Faust” melodies

'The Carl Rosa Opera Company's performance of Faust - the only non-Italian opera of the week - was given with much artistry and finesse at the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee last night. Gounod's wonderfully melodied opera has stayed, despite its occasional gaucheries, a firm favourite for nearly 100 years.  Though the Faust legend is dramatic, a great deal of the French composer's music is essentially lyrical. The rendering last night pleased primarily because it thrust aside the temptation to over-heaviness of drama and sentimentality.

'The singers, again admirably suited, kept the music buoyant with their lyrical styles.  The production was speed itself - witness the pace of the Kermesse scene.  The chorus work here had an enchanting effect of lightness, while the dancers plaited the maypole banners with graceful assurance.

'The focal point of the opera, the Garden Scene, was beautifully sung by the Marguerite, Estelle Valery, and the Faust, Charles Craig.  The tenor cavatina “All hail, thou dwelling”, had lovely smooth tone and phrasing from Mr Craig.  Miss Valery, whose limpid quality and steadiness of pitch was much admired, took the soprano showpiece, the Jewel Song, somewhat deliberately.  The result justified, for her scale passages were like the pearls in the magic box in front of her - each one in its place - and not a hint of breathlessness.  Having disposed so well of the big arias, the pair proceeded handsomely to the romantic duets, to which they gave a suitable fervour.

'The Polish bass, Stanislav Pieczora, was an unusually tall Mephisto - over six feet, it seemed certain - and with a voice of rare and satisfying richness. He was agreeably sardonic, yet did not over-act the part.  So we were able to savour his fine singing, especially in his Serenade.  Arthur Copley sang musically as Valentin, though the usual “Even bravest heart” aria was omitted (owing to its not having been in the original version).  Mona Ross impressed highly as Siebel; Julia Bouttell a fine Martha; Richard Golding effective as Wagner.

'The conductor, Arthur Hammond, had credit for the tasteful orchestral playing.

 

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Friday, May 27, 1955

New Beauty in “Faust”  

'The production of Faust which the Carl Rosa Company gave us in the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee, last night, was certainly their most artistic performance to date.  For many of us who can remember rather painful finales, with hefty angels being wafted to heaven by the audible efforts of invisible stage hands, the sheer genius of last night’s producer will not readily be forgotten.  Against a background reminiscent of an old Italian master, the singing of the off-stage angelic chorus acquired an added beauty few of us have heard before.  The production was notable throughout for its good taste.  A change in his conventional costume found Mephistopheles reminiscent of a Napoleonic general, but the lighting effects in the church scene added tremendously to its dramatic power.

'No opera abounds so lavishly in glorious music.  It was a tremendous thrill to hear the lovely solos and choruses revived so beautifully.  In the title role Charles Craig gave a magnificent performance.  Perfectly controlled, his lovely tenor voice is equally pleasing in all registers.  What a likeable Mephistopheles Stanislav Pieczora made.  His glorious bass voice is in keeping with his magnificent physical appearance.  His interpretation was not so melodramatically evil as we have seen, but it was very impressive.

'A beautifully restrained performance was given by Estelle Valery as Marguerite.  Vocally she was in even better form than in her previous appearances, which have all been notable.  Mona Ross, another outstanding singer, brought just the right touch of naive gallantry to the role of Siebel.  Arthur Copley’s Valentine avoided the over-dramatisation that so often mars his death scene and was powerfully sung.  A delightful touch of comedy was interpolated by Julia Bouttell as Dame Martha.  Richard Golding as Wagner completed the powerful cast.  Singers and orchestra were beautifully blended by conductor Arthur Hammond.'

 

The Carl Rosa Scottish Schedule - 1955

The eleven operas performed during the tour were:  Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (RigolettoTrovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);   Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

The full tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 2 May:  Mon 2 Bohème;  Tue 3 Barber of Seville;  Wed 4 Cav & Pag;  Thu 5 Faust; Fri 6 Tannhäuser;  Sat 7 mat Bohème;  Sat 7 eve Carmen.

Glasgow, w/c 9 May:  Mon 9 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 10 Rigoletto;  Wed 11 Bohème;  Thu 12 Cav & Pag;  Fri 13 Don Giovanni;  Sat 14 mat  Barber of Seville;  Sat 14 eve Trovatore.

The intervening week, commencing Monday, 16 May, was spent at the Globe Theatre, Stockton-on-Tees.

Dundee, w/c 23 May:  Mon 23 Bohème;  Tue 24 Rigoletto;  Wed 25 mat Barber of Seville;  Wed 25 eve Cav & Pag;  Thu 26 Faust;  Fri 27 Barber of Seville; Sat 28 mat Bohème;  Sat 28 eve Trovatore.

 

Sources

Cast taken from a Dundee programme in the OperaScotland archive.

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

Charles Craig (May 26)

Méphistophélès the devil

Stanislav Pieczora (May 26)

Valentin Marguerite's brother

Arthur Copley (May 26)

Wagner a student of Dr Faust

Richard Golding (May 26)

Marguerite

Estelle Valery (May 26)

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Mona Ross (May 26)

Marthe a neighbour

Julia Bouttell (May 26)

Performance DatesFaust 1955

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

5 May, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

26 May, 19.00

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