Opera Scotland

Manon Lescaut 1956Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Manon Lescaut

Puccini's version of the Abbé Prevost's  Manon story had not been performed in Britain for many years, when Carl Rosa mounted a new production in 1955 to a generally enthusiastic reception. It remains a rarity in London, even if Glyndebourne, Opera North and the Scottish and Welsh companies have all staged it.

 

Early in the Tour

A short review is given in the Glasgow Herald (11 May).

"...Puccini's Manon certainly sings well, and the cast last night sang it for all they were worth -  if not always intelligibly.  Of the capable quartette of principals, John Heddle Nash impressed as Manon's sergeant brother, Donald Campbell as the lecherous de Ravoir.

''Krystyna Granowska overplayed the typically Puccinian 'frail woman' leading part, but brought to it a voice of easy range and considerable dramatic power, while Charles Craig's sincere portrayal of the weakly Des Grieux was vocally equally pleasing.

''The orchestra and chorus, though still unfinished, were potent factors in a swift-moving and well-worthwhile revival.  Arthur Hammond conducted."

 

Six Months Later - Two Dundee Reviews

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, October 27, 1956

Carl Rosa's Manon is a charmer

'The Carl Rosa Opera at the Gaumont Theatre last night turned a semi-curio of Italian opera - Puccini's Manon Lescaut - into a popular success, thanks to an outstandingly fine Manon (Krystyna Granowska), and the feeling of thrill produced by the robust tone of the tenor (Charles Craig) as Des Grieux.

'The opera has both sensuous passion and emotional poignancy. It would be difficult to think of a greater elemental contrast than the luxury with which the wayward Manon is surrounded in Paris, and her death in rags amid a desert of the New World (to which she has been deported by her erstwhile “protector”). Des Grieux, her true lover, has accompanied her, and the death scene is one of the greatest things in Puccini's work. The curious thing, however, is that while the melodies of the opera have the typical Puccini theatrical sweep and surge, none have risen to the popular familiarity of those in La Boheme, Tosca, and Madam Butterfly, which are said to have netted the composer £1 million. In Manon Lescaut, the same mannerism of accompanying voluptuous melodies for the voices with the whole body of strings playing in unison provided a similar brand of dramatic excitement.

'Granowska, a young Polish soprano, who was at one time a ballet mistress, was bewitching as the crinolined courtesan in Act II. One would have to be approaching senility to have denied her power to charm - a feature not too common on operatic stages.  This was in addition to her major qualification - a satisfactorily voluminous voice, used with a crisp dramatic edge to it and without becoming shrill.  The love duets between Manon and Des Grieux were delivered with ample fervour. Mr Craig achieved similar exciting effects with his partner on the ascending crescendos.  Both were given an ovation after the moving effect they created in Manon's death scene.

'Puccini was not very generous to the rest of the cast. John Heddle Nash made the best of few opportunities as Sergeant Lescaut and Donald Campbell was in the same case as Geronte.  Eduardo Alvarez (tenor) sang the student's part well in Act I.

'It was the orchestra's most difficult score of the week so far, with many tricky modulations and key changes. They performed it sensitively under Arthur Hammond's direction.

 

Dundee Evening Telegraph: Saturday, October 27, 1955

Carl Rosa in Rare Puccini Opera

'Most of last night's audience in the Gaumont Theatre must have felt a certain curiosity about the music they were about to hear in Manon Lescaut. This is a work rarely performed in the provinces and certainty reveals Puccini in quite a different style from the composer of La BohemeMadam Butterfly, Turandot and his many other popular operas. The reasons for its not so frequent production are possibly that, while it has a score of over-all excellence, the latter contains none of those outstanding solo arias which made Puccini's operas so universally popular. It somewhat lacks the heart-wringing, soaring melodies of Boheme and Butterfly and the exotic grandeur of Turandot. Here Puccini would appear to be trying to follow a conventional pattern in his writing, and he is really too great a composer to wholly succeed as an imitator. That does not mean that there is not some delightful music in the work, but it is not, one feels, music truly representative of Puccini.

'As a production, however, it must be rated very high among the Carl Rosa's presentations in Dundee so far. The stage settings were really beautiful, and there were many original touches such as the lapping of the water in the embankment scene and the behind-curtain lighting effects of the desert. The 18th Century background provided an excellent opportunity for picturesque costumes.

'Musically we shall long remember last night's production for the glorious voice of Krystyna Granowska, who sang the name part with quite unforgettable beauty of tone plus a dramatic sensibility that few prima donnas possess. In Charles Craig, who played Des Grieux, her lover, she had a leading man worthy of her inspired performance. What a magnificently powerful voice this singer has and how delightful to hear the ease with which he can reduce it to the merest whisper, with no sacrifice to its essentially warm and golden tone. With Miss Granowska he did some beautiful concerted work, and their poignant singing of the tragic finale will long be remembered by all who heard it.

'In the smaller role of Manon's brother, John Heddle Nash was his usual competent, dashing self, while Donald Campbell both sang and acted extremely well as Geronte di Ravoir. Others in the strong supporting cast included Eduardo Asquez, Basil Hemming, Mona Ross, Frederick Wood, Evan Thomas, Michael O'Farrell, Ernest Thomas, and Edwin Jepps.

'The orchestra was again under the direction of Arthur Hammond, to whom the singers owe a real debt for his most sympathetic conducting. The company's stay finishes to-night. To the singers and all concerned we would say thank you for a wonderful week, and 'Haste ye back!''

 

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 (RigolettoTrovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Manon LescautBohème);  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.  

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

Performance Cast

Edmondo a student

Eduardo Asquez (Oct 26)

Chevalier des Grieux

Charles Craig (May 10; Oct 26)

Lescaut a sergeant in the King's Guards

John Heddle Nash (May 10; Oct 26)

Geronte di Ravoir Treasurer-General

Donald Campbell (May 10; Oct 26)

Manon Lescaut

Krystyna Granowska (May 10; Oct 26)

Innkeeper

Basil Hemming (Oct 26)

Wig-maker

Edwin Jepps (Oct 26)

Musician

Mona Ross (Oct 26)

Dancing-Master

Frederick Wood (Oct 26)

Lamp-lighter

Michael O'Farrell (Oct 26)

Sergeant of Archers

Evan Thomas (Oct 26)

Naval Captain

Ernest Thomas (Oct 26)

Performance DatesManon Lescaut 1956

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

10 May, 19.15 18 May, 19.15

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

26 Oct, 19.00

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