Opera Scotland

Jewess 1915O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Juive

The newly-established O'Mara company maintained the tradition established by earlier groups of bringing at least one major and one little known work on tour.  The latter would be presented on Thursday or Friday, to give time for rehearsals with the company's own section principals and the local theatre's resident orchestra.  The Saturday performances would consist of popular works which the local band already knew and would have less need to rehearse (on this occasion Il Trovatore and The Bohemian Girl).

La Juive was one of a handful of French grand operas which still maintained a foothold on the repertoire and had been brought to Scotland by Moody-Manners early in the century.  1915 is the only season when it was presented north of the central belt.   It was a work much enjoyed by tenors of mature years, and Eléazar was a favourite role of Caruso, who left us a recording of the character's best-known aria.

Joseph O'Mara first encountered the role a decade earlier on tour with the Moody-Manners company - visiting the Scottish central belt, but not venturing further.

More recently, it has been sung by Richard Tucker, Neil Shicoff and Dennis O'Neill, in several major opera houses.


The Dundee Press

Dundee Advertiser: Saturday, March 20, 1915

O’Mara Opera Co. - Revival of The Jewess

'If it were for nothing else than the revival of Halévy's best opera Dundee would be greatly in the debt of the O'Mara company.  The Jewess was last night presented in an admirably complete manner and speedily won the warm approbation of the house.  The story set forth in some operas is like the divine's sermon, that, according to the beadle's verdict, was drumlie rather than deep.  No such charge can be made against the story of The Jewess.  The plot, if tragic, horribly tragic, indeed, is quite clear, and has been arranged for the stage by its author, Scribe, so skilfully that none can miss the points.  Further, the scenes admit of great spectacular display.  This was taken full advantage of last night more than once, the magnificence and colour in the Palace scene in Act 3 delighting the artistic eye, while in quite another way the scene of the Jewish Passover was impressive.

'But the music, of course, is of chief importance.  As The Jewess was written about 70 years ago, it might be expected to sound somewhat antiquated.  As a matter of fact, it wears wonderfully well.  Some of the cadences are, no doubt, familiar: the frequent arias and concerted pieces, if always melodious, are of a somewhat formal cut; and the orchestration is less rich in texture than modern ears have become used to.  Still, sufficient worth and beauty remain to make the opera well worth hearing, and from the expressions of pleasure that one heard from the auditors it might be guessed that a repeat performance at some other opportunity would be welcomed.

'The Jewess is remarkable in providing the principal tenor with a part that does not consist entirely of amatory sayings and doings.  Eléazar is an old man, and his love-making days are done.  Yet passion of another kind has him in thrall, so that the part provides opportunities for dramatic expression both forcible and expressive that are not to be had in every tenor role.  Mr O'Mara, in the character, gave a picture of the injured and revengeful Jew that engraved itself on the memory.  There was wonderful power at times in his singing, while the pathetic minor song in the penultimate scene was rendered with great tenderness.  Mr William Anderson was splendidly fitted, in more than one sense, in the part of the Cardinal de Brogni.  He acted with impressive dignity, and his splendid voice lent the proper weight to the stately phrases provided by Halévy.  The despicable Prince Léopold was represented by Mr Henry Thompson, whose vocal organ is so fine that he might safely venture now and then to employ it with more restraint.

'Miss Rita Wallace was extremely successful as Rachel.  In Pagliacci she had exhibited grace and a nice sense of what goes to make beauty of tone; in The Jewess she rose in voice and manner to tragic heights that one had imagined beyond her.  Miss Wallace is a young artist, so that much may be confidently expected from her in days to come.  The Princess Eudossia was enacted by Miss Maud Rigby, who looked the part and treated some florid passages with ease and elegance.  The chorus, as usual, was alert and capable, the unaccompanied male voice music in the Passover scene being very effective.  There was some good orchestral playing, the horns having one or two quiet opportunities for effective and pleasant work.

'The engagement concludes to-day with Il Trovatore with Miss Florence Morden at the matinée; and The Bohemian Girl, with Miss Wallace and Mr Anderson, in the evening.'


Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Saturday, March 20, 1915   (p4)

The O’Mara Opera Company - Halévy’s The Jewess

'Halévy’s The Jewess had the distinction of being the one opera this week new to Dundee, and anticipation was quickened.   But the last half-century has seen a complete revolution in our ideas of opera.   The Jewess belongs very much to the day before yesterday.  Modern music lovers, saturated with Wagner’s aims and methods, cannot take kindly to the older conventions, especially in an opera whose artificiality is not redeemed by music of the highest order.   Mozart’s Magic Flute and Gluck’s Orfeo can charm any modern audience by their sheer musical beauty.   But The Jewess is not of this class.   There is a sameness and monotony about much of it that wearies, and the endless cadenzas, vague melodic strains, and, above all, the ineptness of the music itself in reinforcing and adding significance to the stage action leave a modern audience quite cold and unimpressed.   That it possesses some effective solos, and more than one fine chorus none can doubt.   The pageant music is not without colour, and its highly vocal qualities are redeeming merits, but much of it lacks distinction of melody, harmony, and idiom.

The plot is a grim one.  Halévy was a Jew, and his interests were, naturally, with the Jews.   So in adapting a libretto, which portrayed the harsh treatment meted out to the Hebrews in the Middle Ages, he found a congenial subject.   In the early fifteenth century there was a law in Constance that a love intrigue between a Jew and Christian was punished by death.   Prince Léopold had fallen in love with Rachel, daughter of a crafty Hebrew, and had betrayed her.  When the father discovers it he is willing to allow the marriage to proceed, but the Prince is disinclined to go further.  In the Princess Eudossia’s Court Rachel seeks the reckless vengeance of an outraged heart and denounces him.   The Cardinal de Brogni and the Council condemn both to death, but the lover is saved by the lady denying his guilt, and she alone must die.   As she will not renounce her religion, the sentence is carried out, and just after she has plunged to her doom, the Jew announces that she is daughter to the Cardinal himself, and the opera finishes with a grim tableau.   Perhaps if the text of the translation had been more poetic the opera might have gained considerably.

'Nothing but the highest praise can be bestowed upon the care and completeness which the O’Mara Opera Company have given to the preparation of the work.  Processions and pageants, rich dresses and scenery afford pleasing pictures to the eye, and the music was sung in a manner that was admirable at every point.  The opening chorus, the music of the palace scene, and the funeral psalm were all rendered very artistically by the chorus, and some bits of unaccompanied singing were notably good.

'Miss Rita Wallace as the Jewess acted with pathetic intensity, bringing rare contrast to play between the girlishness of the earlier and the tragic emotion of the later scenes.  Her clear pure voice rang out with splendid effect, and the number when she joyfully anticipates her lover’s return had rapturous ecstasy.  The merit of the share in the trio in the second act was very high, and her fine artistic singing of florid and declamatory airs was a matter for congratulation every time.  Miss Maud Rigby as Princess Eudossia sang well.

'Mr Henry Thompson as Léopold threw himself into his part with great vigour.  In characteristic operatic sweeps he was particularly successful, and his declamation was invariably artistic.  He sang with much fervour also in the love duets.   Mr William Anderson represented the Cardinal de Brogni.  The richness and sonority of his bass voice gave dignity and impressiveness to the music allotted to the part, and in the once well-known solo, “Though faithless men,” he was very successful indeed.   There was no finer number in the opera than the trio for the Cardinal, the Jewess, and her father.

'Mr O’Mara once again proved how fine an operatic artist he is by his artistic treatment of Eléazar the Jew.  In it there was a touch of craftiness and cunning, but stronger still a human passion of feeling for his supposed unhappy daughter.  The solo in the fourth act where he mourns his daughter’s coming doom was a triumph of sympathetic acting and singing, and everything else he did was upon the same high level of artistic worth.   Smaller parts were capably filled by Messrs Olivere and Bolger.

To-day the company conclude their visit with Il Trovatore at the matinée and The Bohemian Girl.'


Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post: Saturday, March 20, 1915   (p1)

Letters to the Editor - Are Dundonians Music Lovers?

'Sir - Judging by the attendance at Her Majesty’s Theatre, Dundee, this week, it is the working and middle-class people who are the true supporters of good music.  Otherwise how is one to account for the painful spectacle presented by rows of vacant seats in the dress circle and stalls?

'Of course, this raises the question - Are Dundonians as a class really musical?  If we are to judge by Mr O’Mara’s experience they are not.  Contrasting Mr O’Mara’s experience in Dundee with that in Perth, the verdict is not flattering to Dundee.

I am, &c.

Lover of Music.'


The O'Mara Opera Company's Scottish Tour - 1915

Dundee, w/c 15 March:   Mon 15 Carmen;  Tue 16 Cav & Pag;  Wed 17 Faust;  Thu 18 Tannhäuser;  Fri 19 Jewess;  Sat 20 m Trovatore;  Sat 20 e Bohemian Girl.

Further Scottish dates (eg Aberdeen, Perth, Inverness) to be confirmed.

Performance Cast

Prince Léopold

Henry Thompson (Mar 19)

Albert a soldier

Mr Bolger (Mar 19)

Ruggiero Provost of Constance

John Olivere (Mar 19)

Eléazar a Jewish goldsmith

Joseph O'Mara (Mar 19)

Rachel Eléazar's daughter

Rita Wallace (Mar 19)

Cardinal de Brogni

William Anderson (Mar 19)

Princess Eudoxie

Maud Rigby (Mar 19)

Performance DatesJewess 1915

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

19 Mar, 19.15

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