Opera Scotland

Faust 1917O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Faust

O'Mara's spring 1917 tour only included two weeks in Scotland, n Aberdeen and Dundee, and only the second of those saw a performance of Faust.  However it was also n the repertoire for the autumn visit, being performed in all three cities - Aberdeen was not visited this time (date of Glasgow performance to be confirmed). It is noticeable that the company underwent a substantial change in personnel during the summer break.

The March cast is as advertised on the day of performance, and no conductor was mentioned.  Given that the performance was on a Saturday after which the company would move on south of the border, it is not surprising that there is no newspaper review, either of the evening performance of The Lily of Killarney or of the matinee of Faust.

The October cast is from reviews in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier & Argus for Friday 12 October.


The Dundee Press in October

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, October 12, 1917   (p6)

Opera in Dundee - O’Mara Company in “Faust”

'Her Majesty’s Theatre was again well filled last night, and it would seem as if the present visit of the O’Mara Company were to be a record one so far as regards attendance.

'The chief characters in Faust were all taken by singers of first-rate capacity.  The gentle and hapless Marguerite was represented by Miss Eleanor Felix, who made of her an attractive and pathetic figure.  Vocally, as has already been said, Miss Felix is a star of considerable magnitude.  The quality of her voice is rich and full for a soprano, but she is wise and artistic enough only to employ its extreme power at moments of extremity, such as the concluding passages of the prison scene.  Elsewhere, as in the garden scene, she gave us tones of great charm and purity.

'In Siébel, Miss Irene Ainsley was as successful as she proved on Monday as Carmen.  So fine a contralto is seldom heard here.  Her solos - “The Flower Song” and “When all was young” - were very popular.  Mr John Harrison, who is an operatic singer of note in the South, made an excellent Faust.  He, too, has a voice much above the average.  The quality is pure tenor, and the tones are used, as in the case of the prima donna, with discretion and a leaning towards softness.  “All hail, thou dwelling” was remarkable for the sweetness and tenderness of its delivery.  In the last moving scene great power was revealed.

'Of Méphistophélès Mr Joseph Griffin emphasised the more serious side.  His fiend had constantly a keen eye for business.  Mr Griffin introduced some points in the by-play that were effective as well as novel.  In the Kermesse scene he was extremely dramatic.  His action at this point surpassed that of any recent representative of the part on the local stage.  Mr Griffin has a telling vocal organ that gave the “Calf of Gold” song well, and provided a grand bass for the concerted music.  “Even bravest hearts” was smoothly and beautifully sung by Mr Jay Ryan, who is less excellent when he employs, as he sometimes does, a forced staccato.

'The chorus sang tunefully, especially in the Kermesse scene; but the “Soldiers’ Chorus” lost some of its effect through the stage instruments being out of tune with the orchestra.  Nevertheless the audience demanded, and was granted, an encore.  The band throughout gave a good account of Gounod’s sensuous strains.

'To-night La Bohème, with a cast of distinction that includes Mr O’Mara, Mr Griffin, Mr Moore, Miss Alma Lowe, and Miss Jean Gibson.  Mr R J Forbes will be conductor, in place of Mr Risegari, who has done much fine work during the week.'


Dundee Courier & Argus: Friday, October 12, 1917    (p2)

Her Majesty’s Theatre - The O’Mara Opera Company - Gounod’s “Faust”

'Gounod’s Faust is one of the most familiar of grand opera to a Dundee audience, and we recall, with pleasure, many fine amateur productions of the great work.  Every professional company which visits us - and, alas! their visits are too infrequent - plays it, and therefore the public knows it well.

'Last night’s performance attracted a big house, and was much enjoyed.  It introduced to us for the first time on the operatic stage here Mr John Harrison, whose Faust was a distinguished performance.  Vocally excellent it was bound to be, but it was also dramatically sound and telling.  His “All hail, thou dwelling pure and lowly” was a finely artistic bit of work, and in the trios he sang with rare breadth of tone and effectiveness.

 'Miss Eleanor Felix made a wonderfully fine Marguerite.  Her voice is scarcely flexible enough for the “Jewel Song,” but the “King of Thulé” ballad was most sympathetically sung, and in the concerted numbers Miss Felix sang superbly.  Miss Irene Ainsley made the most of the grateful part of Siébel.  Her rich, warm voice was heard to admirable effect in the “Flower Song” and in “When all was young,” the ‘cello obbligato to which was beautifully played.

'Mr Joseph Griffin’s Méphistophélès was a careful performance, vocally excellent, but lacking a little of the diabolic quality.  Mr Jay Ryan was at his best as Valentine, and “Even bravest hearts” received its customary encore.

'To-night the only novelty of the week, La Bohème, an early but epoch-making work of Puccini, composer of Madame Butterfly and La Tosca, will be played for the first time in Dundee, with Misses Jean Gibson and Alma Lowe and Messrs Joseph O’Mara, George M’Donald, and Flintoff Moore in the cast.'

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

Joseph O'Mara (Mar 31 m)

John Harrison (Oct 11)

Méphistophélès the devil

William Anderson (Mar 31 m)

Joseph Griffin (Oct 11)

Valentin Marguerite's brother

Albert Kirkman (Mar 31 m)

Jay Ryan (Oct 11)


Florence Morden (Mar 31 m)

Eleanor Felix (Oct 11)

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Irene Ainsley (Mar 31 m; Oct 11)

Performance DatesFaust 1917

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

31 Mar, 14.00 11 Oct, 19.15

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

27 Oct, 19.00

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