Opera Scotland

Robert Cunningham Opera Company

During its distinguished history, there were several periods when the Carl Rosa Opera Company encountered financial difficulties, which brought about a brief cessation of activity. In 1899, during such a break in operations, a group of artists associated with the company, including the American soprano Ella Russell and Canadian tenor E C Hedmont established a substitute business, in the hope of continuing operations. The first performances of this National Grand Opera Company took place in Dublin. By the time the company had reached the Carl Rosa's home base at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, Russell and Hedmont had moved on. The surviving lead performers included the Australian tenor Robert Cunningham, under whose name the company opened in Glasgow, and several former Carl Rosa performers, including the husband-and-wife pairing of soprano Alice Esty and baritone Alec Marsh. The conductor and stage director, Gustave Slapoffski and T H Friend, were also essentially Carl Rosa personnel. By the end of the year the Carl Rosa group was back in business.

The Cunningham company's repertoire was largely a popular one, reminiscent of the Carl Rosa itself - Faust, Il trovatore, The Bohemian Girl and the double-bill of Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci. The exception to this was a new piece by Reginald Somerville - The Three Musketeers, derived from the Dumas novel which had been staged uccessfully in London by Beerbohm Tree. The company forces were restricted by financial limitations, and, while performances seem to have been well received, the success was not enough to justify further activity after Carl Rosa resumed trading.

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