Opera Scotland

Don Giovanni 1956Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Don Giovanni

Early in the Tour

A review appeared in the Glasgow Herald dated 9 May. 

"The overture started the performance on the wrong foot, being very untidy and without any of the delicacy usually associated with Mozart. On the whole, much of the singing was disappointing, and the diction was no better than it had been the previous night; but of the principals the men perhaps came off best.  John Heddle Nash was quite convincing as Don Giovanni, both in appearance and voice, and Stanislav Pieczora as his servant made the most of a grateful role. 

On the production side there were too many loose edges, and continuity was lost by lengthy scene waits.  The presiding genius of Mozart was responsible for most of the high spots of the evening.  In a season of 11 operas some productions are bound to be more workmanlike than inspired, and it seems a pity that many of the operas chosen do not have an equal musical worth to commend them."

 

A Few Months Later in Dundee

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Friday, October 26, 1956.

A memorable night with Don Giovanni

 'It was something of a gala occasion at the Gaumont, Dundee last night, when the Carl Rosa Opera, honouring the Mozart bi-centenary year by presenting his Don Giovanni, gave music-lovers the chance of hearing a masterpiece that does not often come the way of the provinces. Mustering a fine cast of men singers, and three prima donnas, the performance did excellent justice to what is regarded as Mozart's finest opera.

'The composer himself described it as an opera buffa. But in its serious passages there is a great variety of human emotion, a spirit of subtle irony, and Mozart's eminence as a dramatic composer is shown in the final scene. Here the music gradually develops into ominous terror as the statue of the murdered Commendatore, invited to supper by the licentious and blasphemous Don, accepts his invitation and grips him fatally by the hand.

'The production was artistically mounted, costumed in courtly opulence, and the Don went down to the flames of hell in an effective piece of stage illusion. Apart from the fine singing heard all evening, the precision and taste in the playing of the jewelled orchestral score, under conductor Arthur Hammond, was one of the best features. The whole opera is a treasure-house of melody, famous arias, duets, and concerted pieces in profusion. Most of them are far more familiar in Italian, at least in title. So there was the curious result of not being able to pick up the English words in pages of heavy scoring.

'John Heddle Nash, realising his ambition to sing the most famous of operatic baritone roles, made a handsome and vocally attractive Don. His purity of tone never faltered, and he cruised through the part with many subtle stylistic graces. Light-hearted, he was at his best in the Don's serenade. Dramatically, he was the strength of the climax on the arrival of the sepulchral guest. For Leporello, the Don's servant, comic and then terror-stricken, there was the grand voice and acting ability of Stanislav Pieczora, the Polish bass. His rendering of the famous catalogue aria, in which he lists his master's conquests of fair ladies, was a triumph of buffo art.

'Ruth Packer (Anna), Krystyna Granowska (Elvira), and Estelle Valery (Zerlina) all gave highly virtuosic displays in the three soprano roles which were so skilfully contrasted by the composer. Eduardo Asquez, a newcomer, created a profound impression in the part of Don Ottavio, his account of the two famous tenor solos being notable for the loveliness of lyrical tone. Ernest Thomas effectively doubled the parts of the Commendatore and Masetto.'

 

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Friday, October 1956

A Brilliant Don Giovanni

'A curious blend of comedy and tragedy are contained in Mozart's lovely opera Don Giovanni, with which the Carl Rosa Company delighted another capacity audience in the Gaumont Theatre, last night. Both aspects of the plot were given excellent treatment in a production notable for excellent singing and acting. A brilliant interpretation of the philandering but charming Don Giovanni was given by John Heddle Nash, who is surely now entering into his fullest powers as a singer and actor. A handsome figure, his nimbleness and gaiety never flagged throughout an arduous three and a half hours performance. His singing voice, beautifully flexible and mellow, was particularly suitable to Mozart's florid writing, and in the opera's many prolonged recitatives (so common to this period) we never missed a single word.

'Comedy honours last night certainly belonged to Stanislav Pieczora as the unfortunate Leporello, Giovanni's manservant and general doormat. From the opening notes of his well-known aria, sung while playing “look out” for his scoundrelly master, we just relaxed and bathed in the warm, liquid tones of that beautiful bass-baritone voice. There was delicious comedy too in his unfolding of the records of his master's amorous adventures in 'Here is the catalogue!' As a purely miming stand-in for Don Giovanni's famous serenade, he was also overwhelmingly funny, but always with that touch of pathos which separates the true artiste from the mere comedian.

'A lovely tenor voice belongs to Eduardo Asquez, who was well cast as the Duke Octavio. With that very fine singer Ruth Packer (as Donna Anna, his betrothed) he combined in some lovely duet work. In the roles of Don Gonzalo and Masetto, Ernest Thomas did some really excellent work and was successfully contrasted in each part. The glorious soprano voice of Krystyna Granowska was heard to good advantage in the not too sympathetic role of Donna Elvira, while Estelle Valery as Zerlina, the foolish little bride, maintained the high standard of acting and singing which she has shown throughout the week.

'The difficult task of accompanying the singers in the very specialised style of 18th century opera was ably achieved by the company's fine orchestra under the direction of Arthur Hammond. A special word of praise must go to the continuo player, and also to last night's producer, for the many ingenious and beautiful scenic effects used in the opera. Particularly successful were the churchyard scene, and Don Giovanni's final commitment to the eternal flames, surely a warning to any other potential “Playboy of Seville” (as the opera has been sub-titled), who may have been present in last night's audience.'

 

The Carl Rosa Opera Company in Scotland - 1956

Unusually, the tour elements were split many months apart, with Glasgow in May and Dundee October.

The eleven operas toured during the season were by Mozart (Don Giovanni);  Rossini (Barber of Seville); Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Rigoletto,  Trovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Manon Lescaut,  Bohème);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

A comparison with the previous 1955 touring repertoire shows that in order to add the rare Manon Lescaut the far more popular Carmen was dropped.  It is noticeable that Tannhäuser is not taken to Dundee in either year, though it was played there often enough in the early decades of the century.

The full Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 7 May:  Mon 7 Cav & Pag;  Tue 8 Don Giovanni;  Wed 9 Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 10 Manon Lescaut;  Fri 11 Barber of Seville;  Sat 12 mat Don Giovanni;  Sat 12 eve Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 14 May;  Mon 14 Faust;  Tue 15 Tannhäuser;  Wed 16 Bohème;  Thu 17 Barber of Seville;  Fri 18 Manon Lescaut;  Sat 19 mat Cav & Pag;  Sat 19 eve Trovatore.

Dundee, w/c 22 October:  Mon 22 Faust;  Tue 23  Barber of Seville;  Wed 24 Cav & Pag;  Thu 25 Don Giovanni;  Fri 26 Manon Lescaut;  Sat 27 mat Bohème;  Sat 27 eve Tales of Hoffmann

Performance Cast

Leporello Giovanni's servant

Stanislav Pieczora (May 8; Oct 25)

Don Giovanni a young nobleman

John Heddle Nash (May 8; Oct 25)

Donna Anna the Commendatore's daughter

Ruth Packer (Oct 25)

Commendatore an elderly aristocrat

Ernest Thomas (Oct 25)

Don Ottavio engaged to Anna

Eduardo Asquez (Oct 25)

Donna Elvira a lady from Burgos

Krystyna Granowska (Oct 25)

Zerlina a peasant girl

Estelle Valery (Oct 25)

Masetto a peasant, engaged to Zerlina

Ernest Thomas (Oct 25)

Performance DatesDon Giovanni 1956

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

8 May, 19.15 12 May, 14.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

25 Oct, 19.00

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