Opera Scotland

Glasgow Grand Opera Society

Historic role of Glasgow Grand Opera Society (GGOS)

Without the groundwork done by this famous amateur society in building both a performance base and a taste for opera, it seems possible that the launch of Scottish Opera in 1962 might not have been so successful.

Along with support from the Scottish National Orchestra (SNO), Scottish Opera's early successes, including Otello and Boris Godunov, depended on the existence of a large amateur chorus, the nucleus of which came from Glasgow Grand. The individual achievements of GGOS are well worth remembering, particularly the introduction of several important but little-known works.


Origins and contribution

 Glasgow Grand Opera Society first met in 1906 and continued for almost 100 years until its dissolution in 2000. GGOS had been established at the urging of the bass Charles Manners, who, with his wife, the soprano Fanny Moody, ran the successful Moody-Manners touring opera company. Their hope was that a network of amateur choral groups could be established around the country that might augment the performance of some of the larger works in their visiting repertoire, including Aïda, Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, Faust and Carmen.

It is known that in its early decades and in addition to its own productions, GGOS provided support not just to the Moody-Manners touring company but also to visits by Carl Rosa Opera.

The reputation of Glasgow Grand Opera Society reached a peak in the 1930s under the direction of Erik Chisholm. During that period it allowed audiences to hear rare works by Berlioz such as The Trojans, Benvenuto Cellini, and Beatrice and Benedict. Mozart's Idomeneo was another work unknown in Britain at this time.

But the contribution of GGOS to operatic life in Scotland did not begin and end with the chorus. Promising young professionals were given invaluable opportunities as singers,conductors and directors. In its post-war years, until its other commitments, including Scottish Opera, made it impossible, the Society's orchestra was the Scottish National Orchestra (SNO). At that time the SNO performed under notable conductors including John Pritchard, Walter Susskind, and Alexander Gibson. Both James Loughran and Bryden Thomson spent time as the Society's chorus master. Peter Ebert and Anthony Besch, who would both play a vital role in the early years of Scottish Opera, directed stagings. Sets and costumes were said frequently to be of a very high standard, through the contribution of staff and students at Glasgow School of Art.

During the post-war years this adventurous programming policy continued, with little-known operas such as Le Roi d'Ys, The Jewels of the Madonna, The Sicilian Vespers, Ernani and L'Africaine alternating with works from more popular repertoire.


Performance history

Productions are listed below. Productions for which we have casts are in bold, with a link for you to follow.

1911 Faust; 1912 Carmen; 1913 -; 1914 -; 1915 Cav & Pag; 1916 Faust; 1917 Carmen, Daughter of the Regiment; 1918 Faust, Martha; 1919 Cav & Pag; 1920 Carmen, Esmeralda.

1921 Queen of Sheba; 1922 Cav & Pag; 1923 Aïda, Maritana; 1924 Faust, Daughter of the Regiment; 1925 Carmen; 1926 Romeo and Juliet; 1927 Nadeshda; 1928 Carmen; 1929 Pagliacci & Orpheus and Euridice; 1930 Faust, Ernani.

1931 Gioconda; 1932 Betrothed Lovers (Promessi Sposi); 1933 Bartered Bride; 1934 Idomeneo, Bartered Bride; 1935 Trojans; 1936 Benvenuto Cellini, Faithful Warrior, Beatrice and Benedick; 1937 Weird of Colbar; 1938 Aïda.

1946 Carmen; 1947 Cav & Pag; 1948 Bartered Bride, Eugene Onegin; 1949 Faust, Masked Ball; 1950 Carmen, Pearl Fishers.

1951 Mefistofele, Jeanie Deans; 1952 Nabucco, Maritana; 1953 Carmen, Roi d'Ys; 1954 Faust, Jewels of the Madonna; 1955 Aïda, Sicilian Vespers; 1956 Bartered Bride; Norma; 1957 Masked Ball, Snow Maiden; 1958 Samson and Delilah, Masaniello; 1959 Carmen, Nabucco; 1960 Faust, Luisa Miller.

1961 Martha, Macbeth; 1962 Pearl Fishers, Lucia di Lammermoor; 1963 Aïda, Ernani; 1964 William Tell, Traviata; 1965 Trovatore, Africaine; 1966 Macbeth, Carmen; 1967 Romeo and Juliet, Nabucco; 1968 Eugene Onegin, Bartered Bride; 1969 Cav & Pag; Masked Ball; 1970 Fledermaus, Gioconda.

1971 Merry Wives of Windsor, Pearl Fishers; 1972 Wreckers, Elisir d'amore; 1973 Bohème, Samson and Delilah; 1974 Carmen; 1975 Faust; 1976 Traviata. 1977 Tales of Hoffmann; 1978 Martha, Nabucco; 1979 Masked Ball; 1980 Cav & Pag.

1981 Il Trovatore, Bartered Bride; 1982 Land of Smiles; 1983 Carmen; 1984 Die Fledermaus; 1985 Edgar; 1986 Suor Angelica & Cavalleria Rusticana; 1987 Cinderella; 1988 Orpheus in the Underworld; 1989 Carmen; 1990 Turandot.

1991 Cav & Pag; 1992 Eugene Onegin; 1993 Opera Gala; 1994 L'Oracolo & Dido and Aeneas; 1995 Pearl Fishers; 1996 Macbeth; 1997 Carmen; 1998 Nabucco.

2000 Bartered Bride production cancelled

2001 Concert

2002 Dissolution


Retrieving casts, programmes and other related memorabilia

Unfortunately, few programmes have survived in collections in public libraries. There are a few in the Mitchell.

We are extremely grateful for the donation of some programmes, permitting the archivist of OperaScotland to start assembling a more detailed record. We will continue to add information as and when we get it.

At present almost everything we know is uploaded, the name of these productions highlighted in bold and a link to details added.

Can you help us fill all the other gaps?

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