Opera Scotland

Sonnambula 1875Italian Opera Company

Read more about the opera Sonnambula

The openiing of a new Edinburgh theatre was justly celebrated with the visit  of the top Royal Italian Opera Company from Covent Garden, under the direction of Sir Julius Benedict.   All the operas were, of course, sung in Italian, standard practice for the Royal Italian Opera of the day.

The preview advertisements and Scotsman reviews are very sparing with data as to the conductors, only specifying Vianesi for Sonnambula and Lohengrin.  The casts for all six operas were advertised in the Scotsman of Monday, 6 December.


The schedule for the Edinburgh week was:

W/c 13 December;  Mon 13 Sonnambula;  Tue 14 Figlia del Reggimento;  Wed 15 Fra Diavolo;  Thu 16 Lohengrin;  Fri 17 Dinorah;  Sat 18 Lucia di Lammermoor.

Further Scottish dates to be confirmed.


Press Advertisement

OPERA PRICES: - Private Boxes, £5 5s; Fauteuils, 15s; Dress Circle, 10s 6d;

Unreserved Stalls, 7s 6d; Pit, 4s; Gallery, 3s.

Doors open each Evening at 7.30, Opera commencing at 8.

Places may be secured in advance at Messrs WOOD & CO’s

Music Warehouse, George Street. Authorised Books of all

The Operas may be obtained at the Theatre


An Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman: Tuesday, 14 December 1875

Opening of the Queen's Theatre - Italian Opera - La Sonnambula

'Last night the spacious and well-appointed new building, which has so rapidly taken the place of the old crumbling Southminster, was opened as a place of public entertainment.  It was fitting that a house which bespeaks such spirited enterprise on the part of the proprietor should have the éclat of being inaugurated with Italian Opera; and if there is anything in music, the success of last night’s performance might be held to foreshadow future prosperity.  Considering the extent of the theatre, and the shortness of the time in which it has been constructed, the appearance it presented on this occasion was highly creditable to all concerned.  Some few details in connection with the accesses remain to be adjusted, but the interior was seen in a state of completeness which any one who peeped in a few days ago might well have deemed unobtainable.

'On glancing round, the general impression received was that of a roomy, well-arranged, and tastefully decorated house.  The proscenium, which has an opening 30 feet wide by 38 feet high, is designed in a style of simple elegance, the panelled spaces on sides and arched top being filled in with gilt trellis work.  There are two stage boxes, one on each side, on the dress circle level, but these being so disposed that their occupants look straight towards the stage and cannot be seen from the auditorium.  The circle is carried out from the proscenium with a fine horse-shoe sweep, the centre reaching a distance of 48 feet from the stage.  The gallery follows exactly the same lines, and as there is no third tier, such a space is allowed between gallery and ceiling as must be unusually favourable to ventilation.  The ceiling is perfectly flat – an arrangement which somewhat detracts from the sense of height.  It is effectively divided into segmental panels enclosed within a circle, and displays in these spaces a series of ideal figures alternating with medallion heads of famous poets and musicians.

'The front of the gallery repeats in dull gold on a flat surface the leading feature of the proscenium decoration; while the circle front displays a simple foliated ornament quietly picked out with gilding.  The pit area, which is of ample extent, is divided by two partitions – the first railing off a portion next the orchestra which is set apart for fauteuils, and fitted with handsome and comfortable seats of that description; and the second enclosing another strip appropriated as stalls, and furnished with excellent cushioned benches; the remaining space, extending to the wall, being seated, for the present at least, with forms unprovided with back rests.

'The seats provided in the circle are exceedingly commodious, but it seemed last night as if an additional cross passage were needed to render some of them conveniently accessible.  The gallery is spacious and airy to a degree not often witnessed, and commands at every point a full view of the stage.  All through the circle, too, the view is excellent, except in the back row towards the sides, where the line of sight is partially broken by the interposition of the balcony.  In the pit, the slope is so well adjusted that even from the most remote seats a good view is attainable.  Lighting is provided for by a sunlight in the centre of the ceiling, and brackets at suitable intervals round the walls.  In the arrangement of the accesses sound judgment has been shown.  There are three doorways in front of the building, of which the most northerly gives access by a short corridor to the back of the pit, which is also furnished with a side door readily available for egress.  From the central entrance a spacious staircase, with retiring rooms for ladies and gentlemen on the landing, leads to a wide corridor which runs completely round the back of the circle, and by short staircases at either end communicates with the fauteuils on the pit level.  The third of the front entrances is available for the stalls; and a fourth, in the north-east corner of the building, is set apart for the gallery, which is reached by a wide and substantial stone staircase.  Altogether, the means alike of ingress and of egress seem to be of the most sufficient and well-contrived character.

'The stage arrangements are in keeping with the general scale and style of the house.  A width of 79 feet within the walls, a depth of 43 feet from the proscenium to the back wall, and a height of 60 feet to the rafters, afford ample scope for scenic display; and the machinery and appliances which have been fitted up appear thoroughly adequate to turn these advantages to the best account. Space is also found for some twelve or fourteen dressing-rooms, besides green-room, manager’s room, supers’ room, and painters’ accommodation. The scenery, so far as shown in last night’s performance, seems worthy of the other appointments. By way of act drop there is a picture of a white curtain bordered below with a yellow fringe, and overhung, as regards its upper part, by a crimson valence, on which are displayed medallion portraits of Shakespeare and Scott, not quite so well painted as the remainder of the work.

'On the opening of the doors last night the pit and gallery were speedily occupied, while the circle and fauteuils filled more slowly with goodly assemblage of fashionable people. In the interval of waiting the gallery gave vent to its enthusiasm by singing in chorus short snatches of popular airs, and now and then indulging in the rather heavy chaff peculiar to Edinburgh gods. At length the orchestra struck up the National Anthem, the audience simultaneously rising, and as the last notes of this appropriate performance died away there burst forth a succession cheers which at all events bespoke goodwill towards Mr Levy’s undertaking. In answer to repeated calls, Mr Levy, jun., came forward, and after apologising for his father’s absence through indisposition, thanked the audience for their kindly congratulations, and expressed the hope that these would be followed up by substantial patronage. The opera then proceeded.

'The operatic company now visiting us is that of Sir Julius Benedict, from the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden.  We have of late years been indebted for our short opera seasons to Mr Mapleson, and have had to so large an extent the same artistes and the same operas year by year, that there is a natural disposition to welcome for once an entire change of personnel and a partial change of repertoire.

'Several of our present visitors, more particularly Mdlles Albani and Thalberg,  and Signori Naudin,  Favani, and Maurel - are so well known by reputation, from the laurels they have earned in London, that the Edinburgh public will be glad to have the opportunity of making their acquaintance.  La Sonnambula and Lucia di Lammermoor are so familiar from frequent repetition, that they have ceased to be so acceptable as formerly; but this not so much the case with La Figlia del Reggimento, Fra Diavolo, and Dinorah; and the remaining work, Lohengrin, which is promised on Thursday, is of course an entire novelty.

But for the choice of so well-worn an opera as La Sonnambula for the opening night and existence of a counter attraction in the Choral Union Concert at the Music Hall, there would probably have been a much better house. The opera was doubtless chosen with the view of introducing Mdlle Albani in one of her best parts, and the part in which she made her debut in Covent Garden in April 1872.  She is a French Canadian by birth, and her assumed name is understood to be allusive to the town of Albany, where she was educated. Her voice is a light soprano, fresh, fluent, pure, of delicious quality, particularly in the highest octave, which has a singularly flute-like character. She has also a remarkable power of sostenuto in her upper register, and a rare facility in executing the most elaborate embellishments.

'Since her first appearance in London, her style of singing and also her acting have greatly matured and improved. Her Amina is throughout a beautiful performance, vocally and dramatically. She is the peasant girl simple and natural – with so little approach to coquetry in the scene with the newly arrived stranger that we are unable to excuse the succeeding burst of jealousy. Her rendering of the sleepwalking music in the bed-room was gentle and beautiful, particularly artistic in the dying away of her voice at the words “Elvino abbracciami, alfin sei mio.”  She proved her power of expressing deep emotion in the scene beginning “D’un pensiero;” and still more in the pathos of her address to the faded flowers. In the ease and freedom with which she sung the difficult fioriture no one could fail to recognise the consummate artist: her “Ah non giunge” was followed by a perfect storm of applause.

'We had a good Elvino in Signor Naudin, who has a light pleasant quality of voice, a good intonation, and an artistic style of singing: he has for a good many years been known in London as one of the most serviceable tenors on the operatic stage. His voice blended well with Mdlle Albani’s in the runs and cadenzas of the duet, “Son geloso del zeffiro;” and he threw much feeling into “Tutto e sciolto,” and its pendent, “Ah perche non posso odiarti,” which was warmly applauded. At times his upper notes indicated some traces of wear.

'The representative of the Count was Signor Medica, who has an excellent baritone voice and good style of singing. He gave us all the conventional sentimentalism of the part, as also the inevitable boots, cap, riding whip, and surtout. He made a considerable impression in “Vi ravviso,” and but for an occasional indulgence in tremolo, his rendering of his music was all that could be desired. Mdlle Ghiotti was a more than usually good Lisa, and Signor Fallar an unexceptionable Alessio. The chorus singing was, generally speaking, extremely good, though once or twice, particularly n the opening chorus of the second act, there was a perceptible flatness.

'There was a useful orchestra of about twenty-six performers, who, under the excellent conduct of Signor Vianesi, did all justice to the instrumental accompaniments.  A word of praise is also due to the scenery, which was throughout good and appropriate. We had the mill-scene complete, with a millwheel that revolved, though somewhat spasmodically.  Taking it all in all, last night’s was the best performance of La Sonnambula that we remember for many years back in Edinburgh.  To-night, La Figlia del Reggimento is announced, with Mdlle Bianchi as the heroine.

Performance Cast

Lisa proprietor of the inn

Mdlle Ghiotti (Dec 13)

Alessio a villager, in love with Lisa

Signor Fallar (Dec 13)

Amina an orphan, raised by Teresa

Emma Albani (Dec 13)

Teresa proprietor of the mill

Mdlle Estelle (Dec 13)


Signor Filli (Dec 13)

Elvino a prosperous young villager

Emilio Naudin (Dec 13)

Count Rodolfo an aristocrat returning from travel

Signor Medica (Dec 13)

Production Cast


Auguste Vianesi (Dec 13)

Performance DatesSonnambula 1875

Map List

Queen's Theatre | Edinburgh

13 Dec, 20.00

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