Opera Scotland

Robin Hood 1889J W Turner's English Opera Company

Read more about the opera Robin Hood

When Carl Rosa revived Robin Hood in 1877, Turner was a leading member of the company, singing roles such as Thaddeus, Don Caesar and the Steersman (in Flying Dutchman).

Here he now made a further attempt, lasting several seasons, to establish the popularity of Macfarren's work, this time singing the title role.


The Dundee Press Reaction

The Dundee Advertiser: Saturday, October 19, 1889 (p5) gave its opinion of this rare appearance at Her Majesty's Theatre:

'That Macfarren’s Robin Hood should so speedily have fallen into comparative oblivion has always seemed to us one of those theatrical mysteries which can never be cleared up. There appears to be a luck, and an ill luck, attending dramas as well as men, for, just as men of genius can hardly make a living while rivals of very mediocre talent live on the fat of the land, so it happens that plays and operas of conspicuous merit have proved less popular than kindred works of lower merit. The Hunchback of Sheridan Knowles, the Richelieu of Lytton, the Good Natured Man of Goldsmith, and the Daniel Druce of Gilbert all belong to this class, and Macfarren’s Robin Hood has kept company with them till Turner arose and determined to give the work a fresh lease of life.

'How bravely Robin started on his career in 1860, when Sims Reeves, then in the zenith of his fame, personated the noble thief, and Santley, with his young fresh baritone, and Lemmens-Sherrington, as sweet a cantatrice as one would wish to hear, and genial George Honey, the prince of operatic comedians, were of the cast. “My Guiding Star”, “From Childhood’s Dawn”, and other airs from the opera were sung in drawing-rooms, whistled on the street, and ground on countless organs; but this popularity was evanescent, and none can tell the reason why. Good service has therefore been done by Turner to the cause of sound art by restoring this admirable work to the stage.

'The libretto was written by John Oxenford, the dramatic critic of the Times, and there is plenty of literary merit in it; but somehow it does not act well. The plot is a little too thin for the appetite of modern audiences, and there is an absurd archery scene which might well be cut out. Robin Hood, under the name of Locksley, as in Ivanhoe, is the accepted suitor for the hand of the daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, a haughty Norman; but the Sompnour, or tithe collector, having been robbed by Hood and his merry men, and the outlaw, being ta’en, is condemned to die.  He is rescued by his knaves and pardoned by the King. If the plot is meagre the music which adorns it fills the ear with the tenderest melody, the truest harmony, and a broidery of orchestral ornament that makes each tone-picture perfect in keeping. Last night’s audience was fortunate in having so many accomplished vocalists, such a well-balanced, ably-led, and judiciously conducted orchestra, to render this music worthily.

'Mr Turner was warmly welcomed when he appeared as Robin, and the duet with his sweetheart Marion (Miss C Bellamy) was charmingly sung. It was clear he was nursing his voice after the usual cold Aberdeen gives to our best singers when they go there before here in their tour, and was mindful of what he has to do to-night in The Lily of Killarney. Sweetness mingled with fervency marked his treatment of the chief ballad, “My Guiding Star”, and in the declamatory songs “Englishmen by birth are free” and “With my falchion by my side”; his tones stirred the audience like a trumpet call. Miss Bellamy added to the laurels she won as Margarita by the exquisite fervour and truth she displayed in her treatment of the music Maid Marion sings. The aria “O! joy, joy”, is so laden with difficult fioriture that only a thoroughly cultured and naturally flexible voice can do it justice; but Miss Bellamy scaled the highest hills of notes the composer had written with the greatest ease, and was called on to climb up again by a grateful but exacting audience.

'The Sompnour was capitally assumed by Mr John Ridding. He had the true buffo humour of the character in his mind, and his fine voice translated that humour into his songs. The heartiest applause he received was from the popular amateur who played the part in the old theatre when the seventies were not far spent. The Sheriff was assumed by Mr Edward Griffin with a grasp of the inner nature of the man as touched on in the dialogue, and a feeling for the sentiment of the music that strongly moved the audience. The two sweetly grave solos he sang were gemmed by pathos, just intonation, and clear delivery of each syllable.

'The chorus of men repeated the triumph they won in Faust by their splendid rendering of the unaccompanied glees.  Mr Augarde’s lead and Mr Turrell’s command of the instruments and voices were as effective as ever. Mr Turner may repeat Robin Hood when he next brings his unrivalled company here. To-night this gifted tenor says au revoir as Myles-na-Coppaleen.'

Performance Cast

Robin Hood in disguise as Locksley

Mr J W Turner

Sir Reginald d' Bracy Sheriff of Nottingham

Edward Griffin

Hugo the Sompnour (a tithe gatherer)

John Ridding

Marian the Sheriff's daughter

Constance Bellamy

Production Cast


Mr T E Turrell

Performance DatesRobin Hood 1889

Map List

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

18 Oct, 19.30

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