Opera Scotland

Three Musketeers 1899Robert Cunningham Opera Company

Read more about the opera Three Musketeers

The Three Musketeers was all the rage in London, due to the long run of Beerbohm Tree's dramatic production in the West End.  It is hardly surprising, then, that an operatic version should appear fairly quickly.  The difference of opinion among critics lay over whether this 'operatic drama' really was an opera, or simply a play with substantial incidental music (rather like the then still highly popular classic adaptation of Sir Walter Scott's Rob Roy).  The Glasgow Herald was dismissive, the Aberdeen Weekly Journal enthusiastic, while the Dundee Advertiser gave it the benefit of the doubt.  Audiences, at least, seem to have enjoyed themselves.

Reasons for the cast changes are unclear. In Glasgow both Alec Marsh and Marie Titiens were less than fully fit, but did sing. Titiens sang her other role, in Trovatore, at all three venues.  Alec Marsh continues to appear in Faust throughout (perhaps because his wife was singing Marguerite), but dropped The Bohemian Girl after Aberdeen.   It may simply be that with four performances in each venue the casts were alternating.

The full cast is as advertised in the Glasgow Herald, with amendments taken from reviews in Aberdeen and Dundee.   A programme can be found in the Mitchell Library in the box of programmes for the Theatre Royal.


A Dundee Preview

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, 21 April 1899  p4

The Musketeers, &c.

'If the shade of Alexander (The Great) Dumas still roams the dim Plutonian shore, and news from earth can reach there, it will probably be a solace to learn how great is the recrudescence of his fame. The revival was begun by Mr Beerbohm Tree, who transferred to his stage the immortal story of The Musketeers. Success attending the enterprise, other versions were hastily written, and the deeds of D'Artagnan and his comrades are now nightly rehearsed at various theatres in town and country.  The latest version took the form of an operatic drama, the joint work of Mr Herbert Whitney and Reginald Somerville, ptoduced at the Royal Court Theatre, Liverpool, a few weeks ago.

'Since then the work has been played in Edinburgh, Glasgow and Aberdeen, to the satisfaction of large audiences.  Mr Whitney has conveyed to the libretto as many episodes from the famous romance as he could conveniently manage, and the result is a series of thrilling situations adorned by Mr Somerville with attractive songs, act-opening choruses, and piquant orchestral music. The most telling compositions are a song, ''My heart is broken,'' and a prayer by the Queen, a drinking song by Porthos, and a duet between Richelieu and Buckingham.

'The work is in the keeping of the Cunningham Opera Company, and will be played here on Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights of the coming week. A special matinee performance is promised for Saturday at 2 o' clock.  The other operas announced are Trovatore on Monday, Faust on Tuesday, and The Bohemian Girl on Wednesday. Each of these operas is admirably cast.  Faust will be specially attractive as the only opera of the week in which Miss Alice Esty will appear  With that charming cantatrice as Marguerite, Mr Robert Cunningham as Faust, and Mr Alec Marsh as Mephistopheles, the interpretation is sure to prove a memorable one. Miss Marie Titiens will play Leonora and Mr Robert Cunningham Manrico on Monday night.'


And a critic's opinion

Dundee Advertiser: Friday, April 28 1899  p5

Her Majesty's Theatre - The Three Musketeers

'There are some dramas which will not bear the scrutiny of severe critics, and yet are really effective when played.  They are like good Paris paste, which, though it won't stand analysis, is quite as good as diamonds for every-day use.  This observation may justly be applied to the operatic paraphrase of Dumas' famous romance, which was produced here last night.  Mr Whitney has roamed vigilantly over the whole field, annexing here an incident, there a situation, and, skilfully piecing them together,  has made quite as interesting and seeable a piece as any built of the same material.

'The characterisation of the great craftsman has been tolerably well preserved, and, as the various personages pass in action, they seem faithful portraits of the originals that walked the Alexandrine page.  D'Artagnan is capitally copied.  Restlessness and love of adventure inspire him, and there are action and movement when he is on the stage.  Richelieu, too, is outlined with a fairly firm hand.  The unscrupulous Duke of Buckingham and his assassin, Felton, are introduced, and some of the incidents refer to the Duke's intrigues with the French Queen, Anne of Austria.  That vivacious coquette and clever intrigante, Constance Bonacieux, and the erring and unfortunate Anne de Breuil, alias Miladi, figure in the plot, and are of more or less service in its development.  All things considered, the play goes very well, episodes, incidents, and crises following each other with a sequence as effective as could be possible in a work intended as an epitome of a novel so opulent in events. And so, what with good acting and excellent singing, even exacting auditors go home admitting they have nothing left to grumble at.

'In the keeping of Mr Roland Cunningham D'Artagnan closely resembles the beau sabreur Dumas drew. Buoyancy of spirits, nice touches of humour, natural brusquerie of speech, and picturesque swagger all combine to make the character one has hitherto only in type a living, breathing picture.  The melodious abandon and good humour Mr Robert Cunningham imparts to Porthos gives due importance, and his brother swirdsmen, Athos and Aramis, are laudably depicted by Mr C F Cooke and Lewis Morgan.

'Mr Whitney Tew (the librettist) portrays the character of Richelieu with force and decision, discriminating carefully the finer shades of the individuality. The facial make, however, need not be quite so maladif, seeing that Dumas describes him as being at that period '' an active and gallant cavalier, weak in body, but sustained by a moral power that made him one of the most wonderful men that ever lived''.  Louis XIII was not a very kingly monarch.  He is rather a poor creature in Bulwer-Lytton's Richelieu, and not very much manlier in Mr Whitney's libretto, but Mr Henry Beaumont makes him tolerably acceptable.

'Miss Lily Williams is picturesquely convincing as the fickle Queen, and the cajoleries of Constance are irresistibly played off by Miss Bertha Cooke.  Miss Cecilia Staunton gives a telling personation of Miladi, and her betrayer (the Duke of Buckingham) is well acted by Mr Haigh Jackson.

'The musical items all went well.  D'Artagnan had not much to sing, but he sang it, as Polonius might have said, ''with good accent and good discretion''. Porthos trolled forth his drinking song just as a buoyant toper with a fine voice would be sure to do.  The Cardinal declaimed sonorously about what happened ''When Richelieu held the helm''.  Buckingham has a song to sing about his love for the Queen, and sings it fervently.  Her Majesty and he follow with an affectionate duet, and when the King comes in she tells him in a well-written ditty that her heart is broken, and the King is softened thereby; and the audience applauds the exquisite rendering.  The cheeriest number is a song warbled by Constance, in which she declares that ''Love is the cherub that sits on the throne'' and D'Artagnan joins in the refrain.  Some of the choruses have a gay lilt, with almost a Scottish smack about them.

'Altogether the music suits the character of the piece, and the house liked it.  The strong flavour of humour that runs through the play hit the spectators immensely, especially in the love-making of D'Artagnan and the broils of the musketeers.  If the marked approval expressed throughout the performance be an indication, the attendance will be large at the remaining representations.' 


Robert Cunningham Opera Company in Scotland - 1899

The five week tour repertoire was Balfe (Bohemian Girl);   Verdi (Trovatore);  Gounod (Faust) and Somerville (Three Musketeers).

The schedule was Glasgow Theatre Royal (i week);  Edinburgh Royal Lyceum (2 weeks);  Aberdeen Her Majesty's) 1 week) and Dundee Her Majesty's (1 week).

Glasgow, w/c Mar 27:  Mon 27 Faust;  Tue 28 Trovatore;  Wed 29 Three Musketeers;  Thu 30 Trovatore;  Fri 31 Three Musketeers; Apr 1 m Faust;  1 e Three Musketeers.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 Apr: to be confirmed.

Edinburgh,  w/c 10 Apr:  to be confirmed. 

Aberdeen, w/c  17 Apr:  Mon 17 Three Musketeers;  Tue 18 Faust;  Wed 19 Three Musketeers;  Thu 20 Trovatore;  Fri 21 Three Musketeers;   Sat 22 m Three Musketeers;  Sat 22 e Bohemian Girl.

Dundee,  w/c 24 Apr:  Mon 24 Trovatore;  Tue 25 Faust;  Wed 26 Bohemian Girl;  Thu 27 Three Musketeers;  Fri 28 Three Musketeers;  Sat 29 m Three Musketeers;  Sat 29 e Three Musketeers.

Performance Cast

Louis XIII King of France

Henry Beaumont

Duke of Buckingham

Alec Marsh (Mar 29)

Haigh Jackson (Apr 17, 27)

Cardinal Richelieu

Whitney Tew

De Tréville Captain of the Musketeers

Edwin Bates

Rochefort the Cardinal's Guard

Frederick Hobbs

Athos a Musketeer

Mr C F Cooke

Porthos a Musketeer

Robert Cunningham

Aramis a Musketeer

Haigh Jackson (Mar 29)

Lewis Morgan (Apr 17, 27)

D'Artagnan a young country gentleman

Roland Cunningham

Felton a Puritan

Frederick Hobbs

Pouchet an Innkeeper

Mr C Felton

Anne of Austria Queen of France

Marie Titiens (Mar 29; Apr 17)

Lillie Williams (Apr 27)

Constance Bonacieux attendant to the Queen

Bertha Cooke

Anne de Breuil 'Miladi'

Cecilia Staunton

Performance DatesThree Musketeers 1899

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

29 Mar, 19.30 31 Mar, 19.30 1 Apr, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

17 Apr, 19.30 19 Apr, 19.30 21 Apr, 19.30 22 Apr, 14.15

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

27 Apr, 19.30 28 Apr, 19.30 29 Apr, 14.00 29 Apr, 19.30

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