Opera Scotland

Tristan und Isolde 1917O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tristan and Isolde

The O'Mara company tended to stick to Tannhäuser when it came to performing Wagner, so it is good to see Tristan on what was probably its first trip north of the central belt (and last until Scottish Opera's 1973 staging).

Dundee audiences were no doubt interested to see 'local boy' William Anderson in a prominent part.

Cast details are taken from reviews in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier & Argus, for Friday 30 March.

Further tour dates to be confirmed.


Dundee Press Opinion

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, March 30, 1917

O’Mara Opera “Tristan and Isolda”

'Mr Joseph O'Mara presented to Dundee playgoers last night his second excursion of the week into Wagnerian musical drama, when an excellent all-round company gave a very fine rendering of Tristan and Isolda.  Although few points in the world of music are beyond argument, there is very good ground for claiming that Tristan is in many respects the most perfect opera we have.  In no other work can one find such wonderful balance and fusion of the various elements which go to make up a complete operatic spectacle.  This fusion was the one ambition of Wagner in the 19th century as it was the ambition of Gluck in the 18th.  In the music of Tristan the ideal appears to be as perfectly realised as is humanly possible.  The majority of operas in the last analysis are unrealities, and the most enthusiastic admirer feels over and again that he is witnessing something artificial, nor can he dismiss from his mind the fact that in real life people do not use song as a vehicle of commonplace conversation. It would be a tragically inharmonious world if they did. But Tristan is different. It is not a drama chained with more or less unhappiness to music.  It is a poem, whose natural medium of expression appears to be purely musical, and the music is always intensely dramatic.  The result is that Tristan more than any other opera in existence demands perfection of production.  Therefore the artists chosen by Mr O'Mara last night had a very heavy task laid upon them.  It is greatly to their credit that they came through with such flying colours.

'Miss Anna Lindsey again exhibited that intense dramatic quality which gave distinction to her singing in the part of Elisabeth on Tuesday evening.  There was strength and sufficient suggestion of the tragic spirit of the character in her work, and there was a complete absence of any striving after exaggerated effect, for while her reading of the part rose to the very heights of passion it was always within the bounds of a perfect ensemble.  Just as she dominated Tannhäuser, so Miss Lindsey dominated Tristan.  Mr William Boland in the part of Tristan made a musical rather than a dramatic success.  He sang with power throughout, and he never once sacrificed affect for strength.  In the second act he hardly looked the perfect lover, so much so, indeed, that one's sympathies went out very much to King Mark; but in the last act, in the extraordinary outburst of delirium, Mr Boland sang magnificently, and acted likewise.  Mr William Anderson as King Mark was very impressive.  Singing in perfect style, he acted with dignity, lending to his part all the weight and earnestness which it is meant to convey.  Miss Mabel Dennis as Brangaene gave a powerful and convincing study.  Miss Dennis in the part of Suzuki made an excellent impression on Monday evening, and last night's graceful acting and perfect articulation fully confirmed that impression.  The orchestra, under Mr W J C Hekker, considering the difficulties of Wagner's score and the scarcity of good musicians, was conducted with sympathy and precision, and while sufficiently powerful, never “blanketed” the players, which fault detracted again and again from La Traviata.


Dundee Courier & Argus: Friday, March 30, 1917    (p4)

Her Majesty’s Theatre - The O’Mara Opera Company - “Tristan and Isolde”

'We are grateful to Mr O’Mara for letting us see and hear Tristan and Isolde, which many authorities declare to be the greatest of Wagner’s works.  Those who have seen the opera elsewhere may not be perfectly satisfied with last night’s performance, but those to whom it was new marvelled at the grandeur and dignity of the story, and the wonderful volume and colour of the music, and admired the performance if they did not entirely enjoy it.  Wagner’s operas, particularly those of the Tristan and Isolde type, are an acquired taste; they are not entertaining, and it is only those who are deeply interested in music of the highest and most lofty kind, and in an abstract form, that can really claim to enjoy such a performance as that of last night.  But to the really musical, Wagner is an education and a stimulus and therefore we thank Mr O’Mara for his production.

'Tristan and Isolde is free from the trammels which beset Wagner in his earlier works.  “It is an entirely original music-drama,” to quote Mr Fraser Harris, who is quite an authority on this subject.  In the few bars of the Prelude - familiar to all concert-goers - Wagner has musically painted the passionate longing and deep devotion of love, and, again to quote Mr Fraser Harris, “there is perhaps no other piece of music which so faithfully portrays emotion.”  This is not the time or place to tell the story or to discuss the way Wagner has treated the old legend, and how Brangaena, Isolde’s faithful maid, changes the death potion which her mistress desired into a love draught, with immense gain to the dramatic significance of the whole work.  Of course, if the death potion had been administered in the first act, there would have been no second or third acts.

'The performance was wonderfully good.  The work is one of immense difficulty, and trying in the extreme to the chief singers.  Miss Anna Lindsey did magnificently as Isolde.  Her voice lasted well and maintained its fresh fulness and roundness and sweetness to the very end.  Her last solo, familiar also on the concert platform, was beautifully sung, and Miss Lindsey acted with dignified sympathy.  Mr William Boland as Tristan sang gloriously in the early part of the opera, and acted with convincing breadth and manly vigour.  Miss Mabel Dennis made an excellent Brangaena.  Her voice is of delightful quality and of much power, and she uses it like an artiste.  Her part last night was a big and important one, and she filled it with splendid power and energy.  Mr William Anderson as King Mark sang and acted with his usual impressiveness.  Mr Albert Kirkman was a stalwart and vocally telling Kurwenal, and Mr O’Dempsey, in the small part of the shepherd, sang beautifully.

'The chorus had little to do, but did that little well, and the band, on whom so much depends, played wonderfully well under Mr Hekker’s direction.

'To-night Puccini’s tragic La Tosca will be played for, we think, only the second time in Dundee, with Miss Morden, Mr Joseph O’Mara - who makes his first appearance for the week - and Mr Flintoff Moore in the cast.

'Last night’s audience was, at least in some respects, the best of the week, and we hope the houses will keep up during the rest of the engagement.'

Performance Cast

Isolde an Irish princess

Anna Lindsey (Mar 29)

Brangäne Isolde's attendant

Mabel Dennis (Mar 29)

Kurwenal Tristan's squire

Albert Kirkman (Mar 29)

Tristan a Cornish knight

William Boland (Mar 29)

King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle

William Anderson (Mar 29)


Henry O'Dempsey (Mar 29)

Production Cast


Mr W J C Hekker (Mar 29)

Performance DatesTristan und Isolde 1917

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

22 Mar, 19.15

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

29 Mar, 19.15

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