Opera Scotland

Fra Diavolo 1889J W Turner's English Opera Company

Read more about the opera Fra Diavolo

J W Turner was a former principal tenor with the Carl Rosa organisation, and on this tour his leading mezzo was another former Rosa stalwart, Josephine Yorke. This company seems to been remarkably stable, with many singers staying for several seasons at a time during the next dozen years.

While Turner may not have been so ambitious in terms of repertoire, He seems to have maintained a consistently successful operation. His repertoire was largely drawn from British works by Balfe, Wallace and Benedict, with a rare revival thrown in of Macfarren's Robin Hood. Fra Diavolo had been a popular work on Rosa tours, but no longer featured. Faust, however, was by this time a work from which there seemed to be no escape, and every company touring a mixed repertoire found it drew good houses.


Dundee Press Reports

The Dundee Advertiser  on Tuesday, October 15, 1899  (p5) gave its opinion:

'That melody is the thing to catch the ear of the public is as true now as when Jubal became the father of all those who handle the harp and organ. When a work like Fra Diavolo is played the rippling melodies, the entrancing harmonies, and the liquid instrumentation stir an audience even when they are discoursed by mediocre interpreters. But when a skilled troupe of minstrels such as Turner brings in his train essay the task, then to appreciation of the lively themes is added enthusiasm for the sweetness and skill with which they are warbled. This was the case last night, when a thoroughly representative audience welcomed the Turner company.

'From a dramatic point of view Fra Diavolo compares favourably with any of the stories to which music was set when Auber flourished. Stirring adventure, romantic episodes, and a pretty love story are all bedecked by tunes that linger in the ear. When the curtain rises the chorusing and carousing carabineers suggest how romantically perilous it was to travel in Italy in ante-railway days; and if life and animation and thorough concord could make a chorus tell its meaning the carabineers last night were well understood of their hearers. As the final notes die away the conventional rattle that is supposed by stage carpenters to represent the breakdown of a carriage is heard, and Mr John Ridding as Lord Allcash and Miss Josephine Yorke as his coquettish spouse come on to be cordially received, and tell in speech and song of their robbery by brigands. The trippingly casual duet goes splendidly, and the manner and tunefulness of its rendering prepared the audience for the excellence with which these esteemed artists continued their evening’s task.

'Zerlina in the charming personage of Miss Chrystal Duncan had been on, but she had not received her due recognition till Lady Allcash with womanly trust introduced her as a maiden whose love was worth any man’s winning. A sweeter Zerlina was never wooed by the gallant Lorenzo. The modest dignity of a loyal nature was expressed in every look and gesture, and when she had to tell her story in song her silvery tones thrilled the dullest ear in the audience. Miss Duncan has made such distinct progress, alike in the histrionic as lyric art, since she last appeared here that we look forward with pleasing expectancy to her Arline to-night. Mr Walter Gray’s courtship of this winsome Zerlina is as graceful and gallant as ever. His sweet, pure tenor is heard with pleasure alike in his ballad of regret as in the concerted music.

'In natural sequence we come now to that brilliant blackguard Fra Diavolo. On he comes in the familiar tunic and tights, and the audience welcome his representative in the person of Mr Turner as cordially as does the innkeeper, and Mr Turner responds by amusing them with his light comedy wooing of Lady Allcash, his apt allusions to the conveyancing branch of his profession, and the magnificent display of his voice. A slight chill, caught in that Northern city of Aberdeen, from which Mr Turner migrated, swallow-like, to the South yesterday, prevented him from declaiming the whole of the grand scena “Proudly and wide”; but he did every justice to the sweet barcarolle and the lovely serenade.

'Messrs Griffin and Leverton were remarkably good as the accomplices of Fra Diavolo. The orchestra, from fiddle to flute and cornet to clarionet, did every justice to the accompaniments under the able guidance of Mr Turrell.


A Second Verdict

The Piper o’ Dundee: was a weekly periodical that built into an annual volume.

The issue for Wednesday, October 16, 1889 (p528) gave its view:

Echoes of the Week - Her Majesty’s Theatre - “Fra Diavolo”

'The visit of Mr J W Turner’s Opera Company has been looked forward to with great interest, and the first appearance in Fra Diavolo was witnessed by a crowded audience in all parts of the house, except perhaps the dress circle.  It is strange that many should be turned away from the doors, while the best part of the house is kept for people who never come.  The music of Fra Diavolo is bright and sparkling, and principals, chorus, and orchestra performed their parts with brilliant success.

'Mr Turner as Fra Diavolo played with great vivacity, and the singing which he undertook was listened to with the keenest pleasure, the serenade being received with the utmost enthusiasm.  Miss Chrystal Duncan was a sweet and fair Zerlina, singing with verve and artistic taste.  Miss Josephine Yorke as Lady Allcash played and sang to perfection, and Mr J Ridding as Lord Allcash showed himself an accomplished actor and vocalist.  Mr Walter Gray sang with rare voice and skill, and looked quite a noble Lorenzo.  Beppo and Giacomo were as fine a brace of banditti as ever trod the stage, and the clever fooling and singing of Messrs Leverton and Griffin deserved the enthusiastic applause of the audience.

'The operas for the week would be sure to attract large audiences at any time, but with Mr Turner and his company of first-class artistes Her Majesty’s ought to be crowded every night this week.  Next week Master and Man, by Sims and Pettitt, a piece which has taken on in London.'


J W Turner's English Opera Company Scottish Tour - 1889

Additional dates and venues to be confirmed.

Aberdeen, w/c 7 October:

Dundee, w/c 14 October:  Mon 14 Fra Diavolo;  Tue 15 Bohemian Girl;  Wed 16 Faust;  Thu 17 Maritana;  Fri 18 Robin Hood;  Sat 19 Lily of Killarney.


Ticket Prices - Dundee:    

Private Boxes £1 11s 6d & £1 1s;

Dress Circle 4s; Stalls 3s; Upper Circle 2s 6d;

Pit and Amphitheatre 1s; Gallery 6d.

Performance Cast

Fra Diavolo a bandit chief

Mr J W Turner

Lord Cockburn a British tourist

John Ridding

Lady Pamela Cockburn

Josephine Yorke

Lorenzo an officer of carabiniers

Walter Gray

Zerlina Matteo's daughter

Chrystal Duncan

Giacomo a bandit

Edward Griffin

Beppo a bandit

Charles Leverton

Performance DatesFra Diavolo 1889

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

14 Oct, 19.30

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