Opera Scotland

Madam Butterfly 1941Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Madama Butterfly

The opening night of this visit, Madam Butterfly on Monday 10 March 1941, was the first performance in Scotland by Sadler's Wells Opera.  This was an organization founded by Lilian Baylis, initially to play in harness with the Old Vic Theatre Company.  It toured far and wide round the country during the war, returning to Scotland in 1942 and 1944.  At this stage the company only played the central belt.

This visit consisted of three weeks in Glasgow and one in Edinburgh, with a repertoire consisting of Madam Butterfly, Bohème, Traviata, Marriage of Figaro and Fledermaus.  The orchestra was a conflation of players from Sadler's Wells own touring band and members of the Scottish Orchestra, made available to make the sound from the pit unusually full for the four-week tour.

The first Glasgow week ran as follows: Mon Butterfly, Tue Bohème, Wed mat Figaro, Wed eve Fledermaus, Thu Butterfly, Fri Traviata, Sat mat Fledermaus, Sat eve Bohème.  The following weeks were the same in content, though in varied order, with the total number of performances, 32 in all, divided between Butterfly (8), Bohème (8), Traviata (4), Figaro (4) and Fledermaus (8).

The company was under the leadership of two people.  Joan Cross had an important career as a versatile lyric soprano, who was also an excellent administrator.  Tyrone Guthrie was a theatre director of international importance, running the Old Vic for many years.  In the post-war period, he made an important early contribution to Scottish theatre at the Edinburgh Festival by resurrecting The Thrie Estaites, a huge satirical comedy dating from 1540, and unknown in modern times.  He was also a driving force in Canada in the establishment of the 'other' Shakespeare festival at Stratford, Ontario.

The cast for 10 March is from a review in the Glasgow Herald.  It gives particular attention to the detailed acting under Guthrie's direction, especially characters such as Goro, the Bonze and Kate Pinkerton.  In Edinburgh, Joan Cross was ill, and a company member was promoted to sing Countess Almaviva on Friday. However for Butterfly they brought in two former stars of Carl Rosa.  On Wednesday afternoon, Helen Ogilvie, Edinburgh born, was very favourably reviewed by the Scotsman.  Even more remarkable was the appearance on Saturday night of Beatrice Miranda.  An Australian by birth, but long resident in Edinburgh, she came out of retirement to save the show - there is an annotated programme in the ENO archive.

In Opera, January 1970, reviewing a book Singers of Australia, Lord Harewood quotes an anecdote from Joan Cross about this performance by Beatrice Miranda.   Cross, whose indisposition had caused the crisis, was thrilled by the brilliance and power of the elderly soprano's top notes.

Performance Cast

Lieutenant F B Pinkerton U S Navy

Tudor Davies (Mar 10)

John Torney (Apr 2 m)

Goro marriage broker

Powell Lloyd

Suzuki Cio-Cio-San's servant

Rose Morris

Sharpless U S Consul in Nagasaki

Sumner Austin

Cio-Cio-San known as Madam Butterfly

Joan Cross (Mar 10)

Helen Ogilvie (Apr 2 m)

Beatrice Miranda (Apr 5)

Bonze a priest, Cio-Cio-San's uncle

Roderick Lloyd

Prince Yamadori

Tom Williams

Kate Pinkerton

Kate Jackson

Performance DatesMadam Butterfly 1941

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

10 Mar, 19.00 13 Mar, 19.00 19 Mar, 19.00 22 Mar, 14.00 25 Mar, 19.00 28 Mar, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

2 Apr, 19.00 5 Apr, 19.00

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