Opera Scotland

Nozze di Figaro 1890Arthur Rousbey's English Opera Company

Read more about the opera Marriage of Figaro

Arthur Rousbey was one of a number of artists who established their own companies around this time, in his case 1885. He had already performed Figaro on earlier tours with larger groups. He employed several promising conductors, though young Henry J Wood and Eugene Goossens II had both come and gone in 1889, before the company visited Scotland. Local reviews, as was common in those days, do not mention a conductor. Wood certainly took a rather jaundiced view of his experience, touring several small theatres in the north of England with inadequate orchestral resources. However the pit band in Dundee had an excellent reputation, unlike some of those a young conductor would need to contend with on such a tour. The Albert Hall in Edinburgh, where the tour opened, may not have been quite so fortunate.

Figaro opened the tour in Edinburgh and closed it in Glasgow, with single performances in both the other cities. As well as Figaro, the week in Dundee included Trovatore, Faust, Rose of Castille, Don Giovanni and Maritana. The previous week in Aberdeen had opened with Bohemian Girl, then Trovatore, Faust, Bo Girl again, Figaro and Maritana. Dundee may be the only venue to have seen Don Giovanni and Rose of Castille. Glasgow saw Bo Girl twice, Maritana twice, Trovatore and Figaro, with Edinburgh seeing the same four works as well.

No conductor is ever specified in reviews or adverts, but it may be that this was the year when young Henry Wood worked with Rousbey.


Dundee Preview

Dundee Courier & Argus: Saturday, March  1 1890

English Opera at Her Majesty's Theatre

'The visit of an English Opera Company new to Dundee is a matter for congratulation.  Mr Arthur Rousbey, who is at the head of the combination, which appears for the first time in Dundee on Monday, 10th inst. is a baritone who is well known here.  If we mistake not, he has been in Dundee with one of Mr D'Oyly Carte's companies, and he certainly was the first baritone in the English Opera Company which last appeared in the old Theatre Royal   On that occasion he played and distinguished himself in several of the roles in which he is to appear next week.  The members of his company are not well known as yet in Dundee, but they have been securing high praise wherever they have appeared, and we may safely say that their performances will be highly satisfactory.

'The programme for the week is a most attractive one, and is the highest class we have had here for years.  Two of Mozart's charming operas are to be p;layed.  The Marriage of Figaro (with Mr Rousbey as Figaro) on Monday, and Don Giovanni on Friday.  On Tuesday we are to have Trovatore, on Wednesday Gounod's Faust, on Thursday (for the first time for many years in Dundee) Balfe's Rose of Castille, and on Saturday a popular opera.

'We trust that Mr McFarland's enterprise in securing for us a week of English opera, in addition to Mr Turner's annual visit, will be rewarded by crowded houses.'


A Review

Dundee Courier & Argus: Tuesday, March 11 1890

English Opera in Dundee - The Marriage of Figaro

'Last night Mr Arthur Rousbey and his English Opera Company made their debut at Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee, in Mozart's ever-welcome Marriage of Figaro. Mozart's immortal comic opera is one the music of which never fails to charm, if the interpretation is at all passable, and when the performance is equal in merit to the music the result is all but perfection.  Every bar of melody is of the most exquisite grace, and the harmonies are of the simplest yet sweetest kind.

'The audience which last night met in the Theatre was disappointingly small, and did not say much for the musical taste of the town. If Mozart's Figaro does not fill the dress circle what will?  The famous overture received last night a fairly good interpretation by an increased band and their playing throughout was satisfactory considering the quick tempi of most of the music.

'Mr Rousbey himself played the gay and rollicking Figaro, a part in which he has won many laurels all over the kingdom. His handsome stage presence admirably fits him for the part, and he plays with an abundance of live and vivacity.  His voice, we thought, sounded less full and round than when we last heard him, but he sings with so much spirit and fire that he carries all before him.  His rendering of ''Non piu andrai'' was last night much applauded.

'As Susanna, the dainty maid of the Countess, Madame E Vadini acted with a great deal of grace and charm, and with an amount of humour which often caused a ripple of laughter to spread over the audience.  Her voice is of most pleasant quality, and her production of her top notes, particularly when singing piano, is remarkably artistic.  This quality made her singing of ''Deh vieni, non tardar,'' one of the gems of the performance.  Miss Agnes Molteno, as the Countess, also sang charmingly.  She has a powerful soprano voice, of fair quality, and well trained.  The graceful ''Dove sono'' was most delightfully sung by Miss Molteno, and ''Sull' aria'' the letter duet, which follows, was very prettily rendered by her and Madame Vadini.

'Miss Hetty Peel made a pretty Cherubino, but had scarcely sufficient vivacity for the part of the lively page.  The lovely song ''Voi che sapete'' was very sweetly sung by her.  Mr J K Campbell, who appeared as the Count, has a powerful, if somewhat rough, baritone voice, and the small parts were all adequately filled.  A large and powerful chorus efficiently sang the little chorus music set down for them, but it was sufficient to show that in operas where they have more scope they will not be awanting.

'To-night Verdi's Il Trovatore is to be played, with Miss Molteno as Leonora, Miss Julia Lennox, a mezzo-soprano of whom report speaks most favourably, as Azucena, Mr W Hillier as Manrico, and Mr Rousbey as the Count di Luna.  We hope that good houses will be the rule during the week, and it should be mentioned that last night nothing was to be desired in the mounting and dressing of the opera.'


A Second Opinion

The Piper o' Dundee: Wednesday, October 12 1890 p174

Echoes of the Week - Her Majesty's Theatre - Mr Arthur Rousbey's English Opera Company

'The English Opera Company, which made its debut at Her Majesty's on Monday evening, well deserves the appreciative welcome accorded to it, and doubtless throughout the week the welcome will grow in heartiness, as it certainly will in appreciation.

'Mozart's Marriage of Figaro was produced on Monday evening in artistically effective style.  The music of the opera is refreshingly melodious, and its beauties were effectively rendered.  Mr Rousbey, as Figaro, gave a splendid personation, and sang with great verve.  As the Countess, Miss Agnes Molteno played with distinction, and sang with beautiful clearness.  Madame Vadini was a vivacious and charming Susanna, and her singing won the admiration of the house.  Miss Hetty Peel, as Cherubino, sang very sweetly, although her acting was somewhat lacking in verve.  Mr J K Campbell was an effective Count, and sang in good style.  The other parts were all well filled, and the chorus shewed it is capable of tackling and artistically treating heavier work.  The orchestra is ably directed, and played in excellent taste.

'To-night Faust; Thursday The Rose of Castille; and Friday, Don Giovanni.'

Performance Cast

Figaro the Count's valet

Arthur Rousbey

Susanna the Countess's maid

Miss E Vadini

Cherubino the Count's page

Julia Lennox (Feb 24)

Hetty Peel (Mar 7, 10)

Count Almaviva a Spanish grandee

Mr J K Campbell

Countess Almaviva

Agnes Molteno

Performance DatesNozze di Figaro 1890

Map List

Albert Hall | Edinburgh

24 Feb, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

7 Mar, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

10 Mar, 19.30

Grand Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

23 Mar, 19.30

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2024

Site by SiteBuddha