Opera Scotland

Ivanhoe 1895Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Ivanhoe

Richard D'Oyly Carte's plans for an English Opera House had ended quickly, in spite of the great success of its initial production, Sullivan's Ivanhoe.  It was left to the Carl Rosa company to take the work round the country.   The production was impressively grand,  and looked rather cramped on the stage of the Royalty - a smaller theatre than the one the company habitually used in Glasgow.   The Theatre Royal, the usual venue,  was being rebuilt following a fire.

From the newspaper reviews it is clear that the plot of Ivanhoe was assumed to be familiar to all the audience members.  Sir Walter Scott's 'Waverley Novels' remained popular throughout the nineteenth century.  Indeed Ivanhoe, as one of the most successful of them, was widely read well into the twentieth,  with cinema and TV adaptations.  It was also compulsory reading in many schools through to the 1960s.

The cast is that for 23 April, as reviewed in the Glasgow Herald of the following day.  A cast is also given in the Scotsman of 16 May for that evening.

The Glasgow Herald of Wednesday 24 April  (p7)  gives a lengthy account:

'It is singularly unfortunate that the Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company should have had to introduce Sullivan's grand opera to Glasgow on a small stage.  No other of the productions of the present short season will suffer so much from stage-cramp.  We should of course have felt it a slight had Ivanhoe been omitted from the company's repertoire at this time.  Yet it was a little less than fair to the composer to display his work - which is really more a series of spectacles than anything else - in the narrow space of the Royalty Theatre last evening.  The management must be congratulated both on the skill with which the difficulties of the situation were overcome and on the whole mounting of the opera.  Several scenes were shorn of their magnificence by being represented en petit, but the sets were exceedingly good in themselves, and it was easy to see how effective they would have been had more space been available.

'It would be superfluous at this time of day to describe in detail the drama which Mr Julian Sturgis has carved out of Scott's novel to form the foundation of Sir Arthur Sullivan's first - and one may make bold to say, last - essay in the field of grand opera.  Enough to state summarily that the action covers the bulk of the story.  In the hall of Rotherwood we are introduced to Cedric,  Ivanhoe,  Rowena,  the Templar,  De Bracy and Isaac of York.  Thence the spectator is transported to the Lists of Ashby,  where King Richard,  Friar Tuck,  Locksley and Prince John come upon the scene.   Act II includes the drinking bout of the King and the Friar in the forest, and the first passages in the tragedy of Torquilstone,  which is carried over into the third act,  where the grand spectacle of the taking of the castle is witnessed,  and the drama is brought to a close with Rebecca's trial and rescue.  The play is stirring enough,  after the first two scenes.  Most of the life of Scott's story is in it.  It is possible to imagine a better dramatisation of the novel.  Yet Mr Sturgis has credit by his task,  which was not so much to create the best acting play he could as to fashion the framework of an opera,  with sufficient pegs on which to hang lyrics,  concerted and descriptive music.

'So much it is only fair to say because too large a share of the blame of Sullivan's comparative failure has been laid on the shoulders of the librettist.  It is true that the libretto has one grave defect - it is too deficient in comedy.  Little is made of the Friar;  while Wamba is a lay figure,  and Gurth is not brought upon the stage at all.  But when we are told that the reason the music rarely convinces the hearer of its truth,  why the efforts of the artists to realise their characters in the music allotted to them leave us cold and uninterested,  is that Mr Sturgis has provided the composer with nothing but shadows to clothe in music,  it is necessary to demur.   Scott's Ivanhoe is a real, live story.  Everyone who goes to see the opera takes with him a definite conception of every one of the characters.  When the librettist puts them on the stage and places appropriate language in their mouths,  that is the end of his function.

'If the opera is not as live as the story - it should be more so - the fault is mainly the composer's.  Of Sullivan's Ivanhoe it is impossible to say much more than it is exceedingly clever.  The music lover who bestows the greater part of his attention on the orchestration is afforded a great treat.  There was a strong band last evening,  and as justice was done to the score, the composer's rare originality and command of the resources of the orchestra were at all times forced upon the listener.  Such instances as the introduction of ecclesiastical music in the scene between the King and the Friar,  the fugue in the same scene,  and the dance in the third act  (which  is made the beginning of a fourth act in the Carl Rosa version)  are well known and obvious, like the hackneyed 'Ho, jolly Jenkin'.

'But almost the whole of the orchestration repays close attention.  If Sullivan was not fascinated by his dramatis personae,  he certainly never allowed his interest in the band to flag.  The dullest dialogue is relieved by those exquisite touches in which the composer is wont to reveal his knowledge of every division of the orchestra,  and particularly his appreciation of the capabilities of the reeds.  What could be finer that the arpeggio for harp,  cello,  flute,  and clarinet which accompanies Rowena's song,  'O Moon, art thou Clad' , or the striking orchestral background which is furnished to the one genuinely passionate song in the opera, the Templar's 'And I will woo her as the Lion Woos'.   'The concerted music is not of much account.  In it unreality and effort are more patent than in the poorest of the lyrics.

'The opera was as strongly cast as the resources of the company allowed,  and there was no distinctively weak part.  Mdlle Marie Duma was an excellent Rebecca.  She sustained the two very trying scenes in Torquilstone,  where she has the burden of the work,  with great skill and force.  She made much of the love song addressed to the unconscious Ivanhoe,  imbued throughout with that conscientousness and earnest endeavour to realise her character which distinguish her among prime donne.  Mr Pringle's King Richard was no less admirable an impersonation.   He looked the part, and played it and sang exceedingly well;  he almost proved that his song in the forest was inspired, and gained for it nearly as good a reception as its companion lyric, 'Ho, Jolly Jenkin', declaimed vigorously by Mr Winckworth.

'Mr McGuckin acted well as Ivanhoe, and sang well, though not in his best style,  and Mr Max Eugene surpassed all his previous efforts as the Templar.  Rebecca was impersonated by Miss Lily Herman, who,  though a little overweighted by her part,  played it gracefully, and sang sweetly.  The other characters were filled by Mr Wilson Sheffield  (a handsome Prince John),  Mr William Paull  (who sang exceedingly well as Cedric),  Mr Homer Lind  (whose Isaac was a very clever characterisation),  Mr Frank Wood,  Mr G A Fox,  Mr Somers, and Mr W H Stephens.  Miss Meisslinger  (Ulrica) had a very small and not a grateful part.

'Mr Jaquinot conducted a performance which was exceedingly creditable to him and to the large force that he had under his baton.  To-night Humperdinck's Hansel and Gretel and Pagliacci are to be staged.'


The Stage of Thursday,  25 April,  (p3)  gives a brief notice:

'The Royal Carl Rosa Opera Company have, through the loss of the Royal,  had their normal spring fortnight season abbreviated to one week,  which was all that the booking of dates at the Royalty would allow;  but for the week they have an exceptionally strong, varied and most attractive programme, including as it does Ivanhoe, Hansel and Gretel and Bastien and Bastienne, all new here, in addition to the familiar but ever-welcome Tannhäuser, Pagliacci and The Bohemian Girl.....'

'On Tuesday Sir Arthur Sullivan's Ivanhoe was given for the first time in Glasgow before an audience which packed the house in every corner, and which showed the heartiest appreciation of both the work and the admirable way in which it was presented by Messrs L Pringle,  Wilson Sheffield,   Max Eugene,  William Paull,  Homer Lind,  A S Winckworth,  Frank A Wood,  G A Fox,  P Somers,  and Barton McGuckin,  Mdlle Marie Duma and Misses Lily Herman and Meisslinger.  Mr Claude Jaquinot conducted in brilliant style.'

Carl Rosa Opera’s spring tour consisted of a week in Glasgow, a week in Aberdeen and then two weeks in Edinburgh.  Over the four week period, the company gave 36 performances of eleven operas as follows:-

Royalty Theatre, Glasgow.  w/c 22 April Mon Tannhauser; Tue Ivanhoe; Wed Hansel and Gretel & Pagliacci; Thu m Hansel and Gretel; Thu evg Ivanhoe; Fri Hansel and Gretel & Bastien and Bastienne; Sat m Ivanhoe; Sat evg Bohemian Girl.

Her Majesty’s, Aberdeen.  w/c 29 April Mon Tannhauser, Tue Faust; Wed Bastien and Bastienne & Hansel and Gretel; Thu Carmen; Fri Ivanhoe; Sat m Bastien and Bastienne & Hansel and Gretel; Sat evg Lohengrin.

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh w/c 6 May Mon Tannhauser; Tue Jeanie Deans; Wed Pagliacci & Hansel and Gretel; Thu Carmen; Fri Ivanhoe; Sat m Bastien and Bastienne & Hansel and Gretel; evg Bohemian Girl.

Royal Lyceum, Edinburgh w/c Mon 13 May Lohengrin; Tue Bastien and Bastienne & Hansel and Gretel; Wed Tannhauser; Thu Ivanhoe; Fri Pagliacci & Hansel and Gretel; Sat e Trovatore.

Carl Rosa Opera returned in November 1893 for two weeks in Glasgow. 

Performance Cast

Richard Coeur-de-Lion King of England, disguised as the Black Knight

Lempriere Pringle

Prince John brother to the King

Wilson Sheffield

Sir Brian de Bois-Guilbert Commander of the Order of Knights Templar

Max Eugene

Maurice de Bracy a Templar knight

Frank Wood

William Stephens (May 16)

Lucas de Beaumanoir Grand Master of the Templars

George Fox

Cedric the Saxon Thane of Rotherwood

William Paull

Wilfred, Knight of Ivanhoe son of Cedric, disguised as a Palmer

Barton McGuckin

Friar Tuck

Arthur Winckworth

Isaac the Jew of York

Homer Lind


Mr P Somers

Frank Wood (May 16)


William Stephens

Mr P Somers (May 16)

Lady Rowena Ward of Cedric

Lily Heenan


Luise Meisslinger

Marie Linck (May 16)

Rebecca daughter of Isaac of York

Marie Duma

Performance DatesIvanhoe 1895

Map List

Royalty, Glasgow | Glasgow

23 Apr, 00.00 25 Apr, 00.00 27 Apr, 14.00

Her Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

3 May, 00.00

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

10 May, 00.00 16 May, 00.00

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