Opera Scotland

British National Opera Company 1922-28

Posted 1 Mar 2021

During our Covid lockdowns, the OperaScotland team have continued to upload much new historical data. 

Of interest is the British National Opera Company (BNOC), which performed all round the UK, with annual visits to Glasgow and Edinburgh. They had also visited Dundee and Aberdeen before the company's collapse in 1928.

The repertoire was wide, with many Wagner performances. BNOC also launched several new works by composers including Ralph Vaughan Williams, Gustav Holst and Dame Ethel Smyth.  Click on the link above to get to a complete list of links to the operas.

The BNOC was established in 1922 as the result of the Beecham Opera Company going into liquidation in December 1920. In those days, public subsidies did not exist and company survival depended almost entirely on box office takings, with some support from wealthy individuals and, sometimes, subscription schemes. In the circumstances, from a 21st century perspective, company failures were not surprising.

Leading performers of the day moved from the Beecham Company to became directors pf BNOC. These included the conductors Percy Pitt and Aylmer Buesst, soprano Agnes Nicholls, and tenor Walter Hyde with basses Robert Radford and Norman Allin. Operations were able to start with a wide and large-scale repertoire partly as the result of lavish sets and costumes from Sir Thomas Beecham's company also passing to the new outfit. 

The British National Opera Company was a pioneer of broadcast opera, with excerpts from The Magic Flute relayed live from the Royal Opera House by the British Broadcasting Company in January 1923, less than a year after the foundation of both the BBC and the opera company

Our illustration is from Hugh the Drover. Vaughan Williams's opera surely worth a revival - check out Hugh the Drover on YouTube (BNOC)


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