Opera Scotland

Florence Evelyn and Robert Radford

British National Opera Company (BNOC) in Scotland

Posted 15 Aug 2020

Now added to the website is a complete record of performances in Scotland (numbering 327) by the British National Opera Company (BNOC). This important organisation, now largely forgotten, toured the UK during seven years from 1922 to 1928.

During this period, the company had a hugely impressive record of producing new British operas – nine in total Fête Galante;  Savitri;  Boatswain’s Mate;  Leper’s Flute;  At the Boar’s Head;  Hugh the Drover;  Perfect Fool;  Alkestis and the Eve of St John.

BNOC also performed eight operas by Wagner, including a Ring cycle in Glasgow in 1923.

By today's standards, the number of operas performed in one week seems simply astonishing. BNOC performed on six evenings, with matinees on Wednesdays and Saturdays - and it was very rare for an opera to be given twice in a given week.  And BNOC would stay in Glasgow or Edinburgh for several weeks at a time.

The BNOC musical director was Percy Pitt and the conductors included several who went on to become Mainstays of classical music in the UK – Sir John Barbirolli, Sir Adrian Boult and Sir Malcolm Sargent among them. Our picture shows two singers with BNOC, contralto Florence Evelyn and bass Robert Radford, costumed as Marthe and Mephistopheles in Faust.

The management team included several leading singers who had previously worked for Sir Thomas Beecham. BNOC inherited many sets and costumes from earlier companies, including Beecham and Denhof.

All the BNOC information now on this database is the result of months of work, both online and in our own records, identifying venues, performances and dates. Then came the even tougher business, where possible, of tracking down casts.

Here are some links to get you started.  Check out the entries, use the search engine for BNOC and try looking at entries by year, clicking on the links. Read the entry, then scroll until you see links to each production in that year's tour. May you find some of the details as interesting as we did.

1922 Parsifal;  1923 Rheingold;  1924 Hugh the Drover;  1925 Otello;  1926 Leper's Flute;  1927 Manon; 1928 Falstaff


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