Opera Scotland

Rienzi 1894Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Rienzi

Rienzi is the rarest of Wagner's operas that have actually reached Scotland - and there seems little prospect of it surfacing again in the near future. 

In 1894, to play at an acceptable duration, it was clearly subjected to a severe editing process, yet still seemed long, to judge from press reaction.


The Scotsman:  Friday, 12 May 1894

Rienzi at the Lyceum Theatre

For the third time this week an opera by Wagner was put upon the boards of the Lyceum Theatre.  Rienzi has this attraction over Lohengrin and Tannhäuser, that it is a genuine movelty here.  Although over half-a-century has elapsed since first this opera was produced in Dresden, it had never, up to its presentation by the Carl Rosa Company at Liverpool, in March last, been heard in this country out of London.

Another large audience filled the Lyceum Theatre last night, and throughout the evening the greatest enthusiasm prevailed.  As Rienzi was on the occasion of the Liverpool production fully reviewed in these columns, any extended notice of it here may be dispensed with. To out-and-out Wagnerians it may be a disappointing work, because it is not characeristic of its composer.  It belongs to his early period (1840), when the glamour of the French grand opera was still upon him, and when, in his impoverished circumstances, he viewed with envy the princely position of Meyerbeer, and sought to rival him in his own unchallenged field.  It was only after his abject failure to get his opera placed on the Paris stage that Wagner began to aspire toa higher artistic ideal.

In The Flying Dutchman, his next work, he struck out a new path.  Having gauged the possibilities of old-world legend for musico-dramatic treatment, he followed it up in Tannhäuser and Lohengrin and, gathering new musical experience as he went along,  he was led to the undertaking of the Nibelungen Ring, upon which his fame is chiefly based.

If, therefore, Rienzi is not good Wagner, it does not follow that it is not good music.  On the contrary it must be pronounced a really fine example of the style of the French grand opera period, which, in spite of certain artificialities and trivialities, must be described as one of the greatest periods in musical history.

The novel of Bulwer Lytton, upon which the libretto is founded, affords ample opportunity for those grand spectacular displays of which the Parisians have always been fond, and Wagner has taken full advantage of his opportunity.

The music, if at times a little noisy and aimed at mere ear-effect, already displays the extraordinary command of the orchestra and the fine sense of tone-colour which Wagner seems to have had from the first.  The Carl Rosa management have spared neither trouble nor expense in putting the opera upon the stage, and no element was wanting to make the performance of last evening a success.

Upon Mr Barton McGuckin, who plays the role of the Tribune, falls the chief burden of the work.  It is a trying part and it must be admitted he passed through the ordeal with considerable success.  It was regrettable, however, that he frequently lapsed just a shade from perfect tunefulness.  Even the well-known Prayer in the fourth act was not in this respect reproachless.

Miss Meisslinger again distinguished herself in the part of Adriano. If any fault could be found with her style, it would be on account of her proneness to overdo the vibrato device; but for an artist of so many positive merits this is not a venial fault, and is more than counterbalanced by her clear and powerful declamatory singing and her ever expressive and eloquent acting.  Miss Meisslinger has during this week given abundant proofs of her versatility, and her success last evening was enthusiastically acknowledged by the audience.

Miss Marie Duma is scarcely sufficient of an actress to appear to much advantage in the somewhat thankless role of Irene; but her singing was generally effective and invariably true. The other parts were adequately sustained by Mr Max Eugene (Colonna), Mr Lempriere Pringle (Orsini), Mr Llewellyn (Raimondo), Mr Rhys Thomas (Baroncelli), Mr Fox (Cecco) and Miss Minnie Hunt (the Messenger of Peace).  The orchestra, under the leadership of Mr Feld, again distinguished itself.

It might be well if the management took into consideration the length of the intervals between the acts.  Last evening the waits were all needlessly long, and they helped to extend further a necessarily protracted performance.


Glasgow Herald:  Wednesday, 3 May 1894

Letters to the Editor - 'Applause at the Opera'

Sir - Again I lift my pen to protest against the uncivilised behaviour of part of the audience during the performance of Rienzi by the Carl Rosa Opera Company.  Why people cannot see that breaking out into vociferous applause over any particularly fine singing or pathetic situation, in the midst of an act or a scene, quite spoils the continuity of the action and the artistic effect, and destroys the realism of the whole, is indeed an enigma.  It surely must be done, on the part of many at least, by want of thought.  Of course such hearty acclamation showed the appreciation of the performance, but I fancy Herr Leo Feld would have taken it as a far higher compliment had the outbursts of applause not altogether drowned the concluding strains of the orchestra considerably before the music was at an end.  The listening to opera in Germany is such an entire contrast to what it is here that the talented conductor must have first felt shocked at the ill-timed applause of the Glasgow audience; but ''Man gewobut aich an Alles'' and I daresay that he will by this time have done so.

I am, &c.


Performance DatesRienzi 1894

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

1 May, 19.30 5 May, 14.00

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

11 May, 19.30

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