Opera Scotland

Pilgrim's Progress 1952Covent Garden Opera

Read more about the opera Pilgrim's Progress

This two week visit to Glasgow by the Covent Garden company gave Scottish audiences their first opportunity to see two new works - not just the Festival of Britain commission, Billy Budd, but also a fascinating late work by Vaughan Williams, The Pilgrim's Progress.

The schedule for the fortnight was:

Week commencing 17 March: Mon 17  Turandot;  Tue 18  Pilgrim's Progress;  Wed 19 Salome;  Thu 20  Magic Flute; Fri 21  Aïda;  Sat 22 mat  Bohème; Sat 22 eve  Tosca.

Week commencing 24 March: Mon 24  Aïda;  Tue 25  Salome; Wed 26  Magic Flute;  Thu 27  Bohème;  Fri 28  Billy Budd;  Sat 29 mat  Tosca;  Sat 29 eve  Turandot.

Vaughan Williams' morality is full of wonderful music, particularly sections which, while the work was unfinished, were incorporated into his Fifth Symphony and the Ballet Job.  However the pace is leisurely, and there is a lack of dramatic effect.   This first production received three performances at Covent Garden in 1951 and two the following spring during the tour which brought the work to Glasgow.  The staging was, at the time, thought to do the work few favours, and many years passed before its quality was recognised.

Leonard Hancock was chosen by Vaughan Williams to conduct the premiere, and was thought to have done it well.  His career developed in other ways, however, and while he did conduct performances of a wide range of operas throughout his career, with both Sadler's Wells and Scottish Opera, he is remembered as a great coach and teacher, with an enormous range of knowledge.

Cast details are from a copy of the programme for 18 March in the OperaScotland collection.

Performance Cast

John Bunyan

Inia Te Wiata


Bryan Drake


Norman Walker

Timorous a neighbour

David Tree

Pliable a neighbour

John Cameron

Mistrust a neighbour

William McAlpine

Obstinate a neighbour

Rhydderch Davies


Edgar Evans

First Shining One

Leonne Mills

Second Shining One

Monica Sinclair

Third Shining One

Vera Hoddinott


Geraint Evans


John Cameron


Michael Langdon

First Heavenly Being

Olwen Davies

Second Heavenly Being

Monica Sinclair

Jester in Vanity Fair

Juliet Byrne

Demas in Vanity Fair

Hubert Littlewood

Judas Iscariot in Vanity Fair

Ronald Firmager

Simon Magus in Vanity Fair

Andrew Sellars

Worldly Glory in Vanity Fair

Thomas Fletcher

Hylas in Vanity Fair

Ann Rodgers

Madam Bubble in Vanity Fair

Jean Watson

Madam Wanton in Vanity Fair

Barbara Howitt

Pontius Pilate in Vanity Fair

Basil Hemming

Lord Lechery in Vanity Fair

Thorsteinn Hannesson


David Tree

Lord Hate-Good

Rhydderch Davies


Leonne Mills


Monica Sinclair


John Lanigan


Michael Langdon

Woodcutter's Boy

Iris Kells

Mr Bye-Ends

Parry Jones

Madam Bye-Ends

Jean Watson

First Shepherd

John Cameron

Second Shepherd

William McAlpine

Third Shepherd

Norman Walker

Voice of a Bird

Iris Kells

Celestial Messenger

Edgar Evans

First Voice from Celestial Choir

Mr T G Jones

Second Voice from Celestial Choir

Myfanwy Edwards

Third Voice from Celestial Choir

Catherine Harding

Fourth Voice from Celestial Choir

Elizabeth Goodall

Angel of the Lord

Olga Frei

Performance DatesPilgrim's Progress 1952

Map List

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

18 Mar, 19.00

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