Opera Scotland

Faust 1956Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Faust

A short review can be found in the Glasgow Herald (15 May).

"In a capable cast Estelle Valery made a sympathetic Marguerite. On the male side Stanislav Pieczora, who cut a sardonically impressive figure as Mephistopheles, shared the vocal honours with Charles Craig's Faust and John Heddle Nash's Valentine. 

The production had virtues not always apparent last week. One could more often than not hear what it was all about, while the restrained orchestral playing which made that possible in itself more nearly realised the potential undoubtedly possessed. Arthur Hammon conducted."

The gruelling nature of the touring life led by the Carl Rosa Opera is quite alarming, involving lengthy journeys by train to visit a long list of theatres, usually for one week, occasionally for two. In 1956, the itinerary began with the week commencing 30 January at the Essoldo, Brighton. There followed the Gaumont, Worcester (2 Feb); New, Hull (13 Feb); Essoldo, Stretford (20 Feb); De Montfort Hall, Leicester (27 Feb); Theatre Royal, Norwich (5 Mar); Gaumont, Preston (12 Mar); Opera House, Belfast (19 & 26 Mar); Lyceum, Sheffield (2 & 9 Apr); Grand, Wolverhampton (16 Apr); Grand, Leeds (23 & 30 Apr); Theatre Royal, Glasgow (7 & 14 May); Royal Hall, Harrogate (21 May); Coliseum, Barrow-in-Furness (28 May); Theatre Royal, Newcastle (4 & 11 Jun); Sadler's Wells, London (17 & 24 Jun) and Opera House, Manchester (1 & 8 Jul).

After a few weeks off, business resumed at the Gaumont, Ipswich (27 Aug); Empire, Chiswick (3 Sep); Odeon, Southend-on-Sea (10 Sep); Gaumont, Southampton (17 Sep); Hippodrome, Bristol (24 Sep & 1 Oct); Opera House, Cheltenham (8 Oct); Gaumont, Doncaster (15 Oct); Gaumont, Dundee (22 Oct); Alhambra, Bradford (29 Oct & 5 Nov); Theatre Royal, Nottingham (12 & 19 Nov) and Theatre Royal, Hanley (26 Nov).

There are only two Scottish venues, Glasgow and Dundee. However Edinburgh and Aberdeen featured in the itinerary of a touring Italian company at this time. Also, it was simply not possible to visit every venue each year - Liverpool and Birmingham do not feature in this list either.

The principals in Glasgow in May were identical to those singing in Dundee in October, as far as we can find.

The Scottish schedules were:

Glasgow (1), week commencing 7 May: Mon Cav & Pag; Tue Don Giovanni; Wed Tales of Hoffmann; Thu Manon Lescaut; Fri Barber of Seville; Sat mat Don Giovanni; Sat eve Rigoletto.

Glasgow (2), week commencing 14 May: Mon Faust; Tue Tannhäuser; Wed Bohème; Thu Barber of Seville; Fri Manon Lescaut; Sat mat Cav & Pag; Sat eve Trovatore.

Dundee, week commencing 22 Oct: Mon Faust; Tue Barber of Seville; Wed Cav & Pag; Thu Don Giovanni; Fri Manon Lescaut; Sat mat Bohème; Sat eve Tales of Hoffmann.

The Faust cast for this season was almost identical to that in the previous year, with the sole difference being the arrival of a new baritone, John Heddle Nash. He was a son of the famous tenor Heddle Nash, who was still singing occasionally. The son was a good actor, though his voice was light, and after his move to Sadler's Wells he became one of their most accomplished operetta specialists, with effortlessly clear diction.

There were indications that the company management was attempting to introduce some new features in the staging - the sets were slightly modernised, and the edition used was essentially a return to the original score, so Valentin's aria 'Even bravest heart', composed years later for Charles Santley, was among the items cut.

It was noted in the press that Arthur Hammond was conducting from memory. This is not something that could have been risked in the days when only the orchestral principals toured to train and augment the local musicians. When this itinerary included several venues like the Dundee Gaumont, with no regular band, the 40 players in the pit must have been travelling on the whole tour.

Cast details are for Dundee, from a programme in the OperaScotland collection.

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

Charles Craig

Méphistophélès the devil

Stanislav Pieczora

Valentin Marguerite's brother

John Heddle Nash

Wagner a student of Dr Faust

Ernest Thomas

Marguerite

Estelle Valery

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Mona Ross

Marthe a neighbour

Julia Bouttell

Performance DatesFaust 1956

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

14 May, 19.15

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

22 Oct, 19.00

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