Opera Scotland

Dinorah 1875Italian Opera Company

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An Edinburgh Review

The Scotsman: Saturday, December 18, 1875

The Queen's Theatre - Opera - Dinorah

'Dinorah, given last night, attracted, next to Lohengrin, the best house of the season.  Ever since its first appearance in Paris as La Pardon de Ploermel in 1859, Meyerbeer’s charming pastoral opera has enjoyed a large share of favour all over the Continent, and in London also.  In Edinburgh, familiar as some of its airs are as concert songs, we have had but scanty opportunities of making acquaintance with it.  A good many years ago it was given in an English version, and in the spring of 1870 it was produced by Mr Gye’s company, with Murska, Santley, and Gardoni in the principal parts.  The plot turns on one of those curious old legends of hidden treasure placed under supernatural guardianship, traceable in the Nibelungenlied, and even in the Edda, which have preserved some degree of vitality down to recent times among the peasantry of the more secluded parts of Europe.

'According to the form of the legend here adopted, the hidden treasure may be acquired by any one who chooses to remain in solitary seclusion for a year; but a rather unpleasant condition is appended, that whoever first lays hands on the gold is to die within the next twelve months.  The Breton peasant who is the hero of this story (and who, unlike operatic heroes and lovers generally, is a baritone and not a tenor) has secluded himself for the requisite time with the view of acquiring the treasure for himself and his fiancee, and has secured as his go-between an avaricious and chicken-hearted bag-piper, who, unaware, of course, of the condition alluded to, has agreed to meet him at midnight at the spot where the treasure lies hid.

'Meanwhile Dinorah, believing her betrothed to have become faithless, has lost her reason, and taken to wandering about the country with a pet goat; and she unexpectedly appears at the place of rencontre, singing and dancing, and terrifying the poor piper out of his wits.  A tempest comes on; she is precipitated into the water, and recognised, rescued, and resuscitated by her lover.  With returning consciousness her reason returns, and all ends with the happy union of hero and heroine.  The music has nothing of the grandeur of Meyerbeer’s other operas, but is made up of the freshest and most delicious strains of melody, equally charming to the learned and unlearned, with rich instrumentation.

'The three principal parts were represented by Mdlle Thalberg, Signor Medica, and Signor Pavani.  Mdlle Thalberg gave a well-studied and successful impersonation of the very exacting part of Dinorah, looking, acting, and singing well, and entering skilfully into the rapid changes of condition of the poor girl’s distracted brain.  While singing the berceuse over the goat – present only in imagination – and caressing it, she charmed the audience by her grace and tenderness.  When out of mischief she tormented the fainthearted minstrel, making him in turns play, dance, and sing, and mimicking his bagpipe in a succession of wonderful flourishes.  Her versatile acting and brilliant vocalisation were greatly appreciated.  The culminating point was the famous dancing song addressed to her shadow as it appeared and disappeared, which won the heartiest applause, and had to be repeated.  She was extremely effective in the concluding trio of the first act, but scarcely so much so in the trio of the Val Maudit at the end of the second.   Her acting was beautiful where she recovers her consciousness and begins to recognise her lover and the objects around her.

'The part of Hoel is one of great difficulty, and written for a voice of exceptional compass.  Signor Medica, while he sang like a painstaking artist, and was all that could be desired in the concerted music, had to strain his voice unpleasantly in his first solo, the impetuous “O possente Magice,” which in one passage ascends to G sharp.  There was rather less appearance of effort in his singing of the well-known “Sei Vendicata Assai,” delivered over the apparently lifeless body of Dinorah.  Signor Pavani made a fairly good Corentin, keeping up the humour of the part well.

'Mdlle Ghiotti was the Goatherd, whose principal duty is to sing the canzonet written for Madame Nantier-Didiee. Her low notes were very fine, but the more florid music of her part was rather beyond her powers.  We had many cuts in the third act, the omitted numbers including the spirited chanson de chasse, the reapers’ song, the duet of the two goatherds, and the paternoster quartet.  The chorus singing, though once or twice flat, was usually satisfactory.  The very captivating and original retrospective overture, with the goat bells, the Ave Maria behind the stage, and the Pilgrims’ March, was very enjoyable and would have been more so but for the disturbance made by late comers to the dress circle vainly endeavouring to discover their proper places.

'By some strange blunder, the numbers in the plan of the theatre exhibited to applicants for tickets are entirely different from the numbers actually attached to the seats, and the boxkeepers are therefore utterly unable to tell any one where his proper place is.  The practical result is, that no rule but first come first served prevails – an arrangement naturally objected to by those who had selected particular seats on the plan on the faith that they would be kept for them.  Had this malarrangement been confined to the first and second nights, we would have been indisposed to allude to it; but continuing as it does evening after evening, it really becomes matter of complaint.

'One can, perhaps, hardly expect that all the proper appliances for such an opera as this would be supplied for a single performance; but the second finale failed a good deal of its effect from the absence of any attempt to represent the storm and rush of the torrent, and we looked in vain for the goat.  The procession of the pilgrims and reunited lovers across the stage was well managed.

'Lucia di Lammermoor is announced for this evening, the last night of the opera, with Mdlle Albani as the heroine.'

Performance Cast

Dinorah a peasant girl

Zaré Thalberg (Dec 16)

Hoël a goat-herd

Signor Medica (Dec 16)

Corentino a bagpiper

Signor Pavani (Dec 16)

Huntsman

Signor Proni (Dec 16)

Harvester

Signor Filli (Dec 16)

First Goatherd

Mdlle Estelle (Dec 16)

Second Goatherd

Mdlle Ghiotti (Dec 16)

Production Cast

Translator

Achille de Lauzières (Italian)

Performance DatesDinorah 1875

Map List

Queen's Theatre | Edinburgh

17 Dec, 20.00

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