Opera Scotland

Huguenots 1916O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Huguenots

Meyerbeer's extremely grand masterpiece was an ambitious addition to the O'Mara repertoire, even without the frequently cut final act.  It doesn't seem to have been performed professionally in Scotland since, though at least one amateur group has had a go.

These cast details are from a review in the Dundee Courier & Argus.  No conductor is mentioned, but Oreste Sanfilippo is identified as the company's musical director, and would certainly be expected to conduct anything novel or unusual.

 

Press Comment

Dundee Courier & Argus: Saturday, March 4, 1916

“The Huguenots”

'When the late Sir Augustus Harris produced Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, with the fifth act, in the early days of his operatic reign at Drury Lane, the performance, it is said, lasted till one o'clock in the morning. We are glad that the production of last night at Her Majesty's Theatre was over soon after ten o'clock.  Still, as it is impossible to get a quart of anything into a pint measure, so it is impossible to cram the whole of Les Huguenots into three hours.  Much that is cut is not missed, but the last act, now usually omitted, has dramatic points of much effectiveness.  There we learn of the death of the chivalrous Nevers; there Raoul and Valentine are united by Marcel; and there all three fall dead under the fire of the Catholic soldiery.

'Meyerbeer was jeeringly described by Wagner as “a miserable music maker,” and as “a Jew banker to whom it occurred to compose operas.”  The infinitely greater man was obviously jealous of the infinitely smaller man, of the latter of whom it may fairly be said that in a small degree he anticipated the greater.  That Meyerbeer was personally kind and encouraging to  Wagner is true, and, therefore, the latter's sneers are ill-conditioned, even if artistically justifiable.

'The story of Les Huguenots is taken from a splendid chapter of French history, full of chivalry and of fanaticism, and of alternate grandeur and horrors.  The production of the work was on a scale hitherto unknown in opera, and its opportunities for scenic display, for effective stage scenes, and for telling finales are the reasons of its continued popularity.  The music is of a florid, highly-coloured type, effective in its own way, but that way is not the modern way.  Meyerbeer's music is the principal feature of the opera, not merely an integral part of the whole work.  The most famous number is the gorgeous duet at the end of the fourth - now the last - act, sung by Valentine and Raoul, and other important numbers are the duet for Valentine and Marcel in the third act, the charming chorus for ladies voices, “Ave Maria,” Urbano's fine cavatina, “Give ye, gay lords, good even!” and Marcel's stirring song, “The Monks and their Convents,” with its “Piff, paff, piff!” refrain.  There is much fine and elaborate concerted work, and some of the chorus movements are striking.  But to the ear accustomed to more modern music the effect is sometimes tawdry, and often unconvincing.

'The performance last night was an excellent one, and deserved a better and larger audience.  Les Huguenots demands a big cast, and discloses the strength - or weakness - of a company.   Miss Anna Lindsey, who as Valentine made her second appearance for the week, acted with much grace and sang with real brilliance.  The music of the part is most exacting, much of it lying in the higher upper register, and being full of difficult runs, scale passages, and other vocal ornaments.   All was sung with brightness and tunefulness, and in the final duet Miss Lindsey specially distinguished herself.   Miss Pauline Donnan, if not suggesting the queenly manner of Marguerite de Valois, sang admirably, and Miss Irene Ainsley both acted and sang with conspicuous success as the page Urbano.

'Mr Henry Thompson, who is having an arduous week's work, found the trying music of Raoul de Nangis to his liking, for he sang with immense vigour and breadth.   His top notes are wonderfully fine, and he does not grudge to use them.   Mr William Anderson's sonorous voice and dignified style admirably suited the part of the faithful, loyal Marcel, and the clearness of his enunciation was, as usual, a feature of his singing.   Mr Arthur Vallance was at his best as Count de Nevers, Mr William Heughan made a stately Marquis de St Bris and Mr B Kirkman sang capitally as Méru.   Many of the chorus numbers went well, but there is a want of unanimity of attack, which might, we think, easily be corrected.

'This afternoon Lucia di Lammermoor, which has not been sung in English in Dundee for a good many years, will be presented here by the O'Mara Company.   Miss Morden will appear as Lucia, a part in which we are told she is great, Mr Saxton Granville as Edgar of Ravenswood, Mr Russell as Henry Ashton, Mr Frank Clarke as Sir Arthur Bucklaw, and Mr Heughan as Bide-the-Bent.   At night Gounod's Faust brings this enjoyable visit to a finish.   Miss Donnan as Marguerite, Miss Bower as Siébel, Mr O'Mara as Faust and Mr Anderson as Méphistophélès are the principals.'

 

The O'Mara Opera Company's Scottish Tour - 1916

Aberdeen, w/c 21 February:  Mon 21 tbc.

Dundee, w/c 28 February:  Mon 28 Trovatore:  Tue 29 Carmen;  Wed 1 Mar Tannhäuser;  Thu 2 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 3 Huguenots;  Sat 4 mat Lucia di Lammermoor;  Sat 4 eve Faust.

Further Scottish dates to be confirmed.

Performance Cast

Marguerite de Valois sister of the King of France

Pauline Donnan (Mar 3)

Raoul de Nangis a Huguenot nobleman

Henry Thompson (Mar 3)

Comte de Saint Bris a Catholic nobleman

William Heughan (Mar 3)

Valentine daughter of Saint-Bris

Anna Lindsey (Mar 3)

Urbain page to Marguerite

Irene Ainsley (Mar 3)

Marcel Raoul's servant

William Anderson (Mar 3)

Comte de Nevers a Catholic nobleman

Arthur Vallance (Mar 3)

Méru a Catholic gentleman

Albert Kirkman (Mar 3)

Performance DatesHuguenots 1916

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

3 Mar, 19.15

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