Opera Scotland

Faust 1899Robert Cunningham Opera Company

Read more about the opera Faust

1899 was a difficult year for the Carl Rosa company, with a gap in its performing schedule due to lack of funds. Several singers tried to keep the show on the road, albeit in a slimmed down form. The Grand National Opera company had started operations in Dublin. By the time it moved to Liverpool, two of the leading performers, Ella Russell and Charles Hedmont, had left. On arrival in Glasgow the company's lead tenor was also the name on the corporate masthead, with the husband and wife pairing of soprano Alice Esty and baritone Alec Marsh in support, along with the popular soprano Marie Titiens, and several of the stage and music staff.

The repertoire contained several popular favourites, including Faust, Trovatore, Bohemian Girl and Cav & Pag. The novelty was a new adaptation, premiered in Liverpool, of the hugely fashionable Dumas novel, The Three Musketeers. Generally reviews were quite enthusiastic about performance standards, though opinions were more mixed about the new work. Of the general quality of the opening Faust there was near unanimity. Nevertheless, the company did not continue long, perhaps because the Carl Rosa group was reconstituted.

The company visited the four Scottish cities in turn, and this cast is as seen in Dundee


Dundee Advertiser: Wednesday, April 26 1899   p4

Her Majesty's Theatre - Faust

'An admirable representation of this enchanting opera  was given last night before a genuinely appreciative audience, many of whom were doubtless attracted by the pleasing prospect of Miss Alice Esty's embodiment of Marguerite. Since she last charmed a Dundee audience she has steadily advanced in artistic vocalisation and dramatic power.  This was abundantly evidenced by the remarkable grace and delicacy with which she invested the popular ''Jewel Song''.  The decorated passages were discoursed with ease, elegance and such ornamentation as her own pure taste thought effective. ''There was once a King in Thule'' was charged with fresh beauty by dreamy sentiment, and all the elegant and tender phrases of melody in the garden music were deliciously uttered.  In the church scene and the agonising episode of Valentine's death her acting was profoundly thrilling and affecting, and to the last the personation was replete with emotional power and natural feeling.

'Mr Robert Cunningham showed a most intelligent perception, and gave an almost perfect interpretation of Faust.  Grace and feeling informed his treatment of the garden scene, and vocal skill and fervour were displayed in the ''Salve Dimora'' and the love duet with Marguerite.  Mephistopheles has figured so often as a mere dramatic villain that it is positively refreshing to see Mr Marsh giving the devil his due by sound comedy acting. The evil nature is, of course, not disguised, but he who wrote ''The Prince of Darkness was a gentleman'' would have applauded Mr Marsh's interpretation which in all respects compared not unfavourably with Edouard de Reszke.

'Valentine was forcibly personated by Mr Laurence Mooney.  His earnestness evinced real sympathy with the character.  In the death scene he struck the true chord of passion, and threw his whole soul into his voice.  Siébel was made an attractive boy lover by Miss Cecilia Staunton, and the lovely airs he has to sing were rendered with rare beauty of tone and purity of enunciation.  What of humour there is in Martha was well expressed by Miss Bertha Cooke, and the scene with Mephistopheles was amusingly enacted, and their little duets were sung with happy effect.  A laudatory word is also merited by Mr F H Hobbs for his manly personation of Wagner.

'The choristers sang in pleasing concert.  In the Kermesse all went well in song and dance, and the audience applauded generously  The repetition of the ''Calf of Gold'' was clamorously demanded, and never was encore better merited. A similar compliment was paid to Siébel for the flower song  and the interpolated ballad ''We were not born to trifle with love'', and the guerdon was offered to Marguerite for the fascinating rendering of the Jewel Song, but Miss Esty gracefully declined it, and the audience, being as judicious as it was enthusiastic, acquiesced.  The splendid fervour, however, with which the Soldiers' Chorus was trolled forth roused the house to an inappeasable demand for an encore, and in the willing warriors marched again.

'But that that ancient but ever fresh maiden The Bohemian Girl takes the stage to-night, a repetition of Faust would have been acceptable.'

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

Robert Cunningham

Méphistophélès the devil

Alec Marsh

Valentin Marguerite's brother

Haigh Jackson (Mar 27)

Laurence Mooney (Apr 25)

Wagner a student of Dr Faust

Frederick Hobbs


Alice Esty

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Cecilia Staunton

Marthe a neighbour

Bertha Cooke

Performance DatesFaust 1899

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

27 Mar, 19.30 1 Apr, 14.00

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

18 Apr, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

25 Apr, 19.30

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2024

Site by SiteBuddha