Opera Scotland

Perfect Fool 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Perfect Fool

Holst's  recent work was a blend of opera and ballet. In Edinburgh it was the first part of a double bill, followed by Gianni Schicchi.  By contrast, in Glasgow it was given as the second half of a double-bill that started with Mackenzie's brand new Eve of St John.

Cast details are from a programme in the Mitchell Library.


The Critical Response

The Scotsman of Friday, 31 October (p6) was enthusiastic:

As attractive a double bill as could be desired, Holst's Perfect Fool and Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, was presented at the King's Theatre last night.  Both operas were heard in Edinburgh for the first time last season, and it was satisfactory, not only to find them included in the repertory of the present visit of the British National Opera Company, but also to see them so well received.  One of the great obstacles to operatic progress has been a certain distrust on the part of the public, of the unfamiliar, and it is good to see this distrust disappearing.

The Perfect Fool, with its fantastic humour, and Gianni Schicchi, a piece of unctuous satire, improve on a new hearing, and Gianni Schicchi, with a power of execution far beyond any of Puccini's previous works, particularly so.

'Last night's performances presented casts which were not to any great extent different from those of the former renderings here. In The Perfect Fool, Mr Robert Parker, as the wizard whose schemes are foiled, was very amusing, as was also Miss Edna Thornton as the mother. 

Mr Raymond Ellis, as the fool, yawned his way through the part with an imperturbable gravity; and Miss Sylvia Nelis was charming as the Princess. 

Mr Browning Mummery as the Verdian troubadour and Mr Frederic Collier as the Wagnerian traveller were also good; and the remainder of the cast enteredt thoroughly into the fun of a very clever piece of absurdity.'


The Glasgow View

The Glasgow Herald critic on Friday, 21 October (p10) reviewed The Eve of St John with rather less enthusiasm than he summoned up for the second element of the evening, The Perfect Fool, by Gustav Holst.  Half his space is devoted to a preview of that evening's Scottish premiere of Hugh the Drover:

'The Perfect Fool, which was the second of the two operas, had a splendid performance.  It was good to hear this work again, and to realise anew how fine the music is and how satisfying the whole conception. The cast was nearly the same as presented the work last winter in Glasgow, the exceptions being Mr Browning Mummery, who appeared with much success as the Troubadour, and Miss Sylvia Nelis, who played and sang the part of the Princess delightfully.  

'The ballet in this work were in their best form, and Miss Eily Gerald presented once again her beautiful study of the Spirit of Water.  Mr Malcolm Sargent conducted both operas, and did excellent work.'


BNOC's 1924 Scottish tour

The BNOC tour of Scotland in 1924 lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's) then three in Glasgow (Theatre Royal).

Amazingly, four operas by British composers were toured, as well as four French, though only one by Verdi.  As usual, Wagner and Puccini seem to enjoy undying popularity.  One Russian piece also puts in an appearance.

A total of 19 works were performed:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);   Wagner (Tannhäuser,  MastersingersSiegfried);  Verdi (Aïda);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Rimsky-Korsakov (Golden Cockerel);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);   Puccini (BohèmeMadam ButterflyGianni Schicchi);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Mackenzie (Eve of St John);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Holst (Perfect Fool);  Boughton (Alkestis).

The performance schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh,  w/c 27 October:  Mon 27 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 28 Carmen;  Wed 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 29 eve Hugh the Drover:  Thu 30 Perfect Fool & Gianni Schicchi;  Fri 31 Siegfried;  Sat 01 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 01 eve Tales of Hoffmann.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 November:  Mon 03 Golden Cockerel;  Tue 04 Pelléas et Mélisande;  Wed 05 mat  Magic Flute;  Wed 05 eve Tannhäuser;  Thu 06 Mastersingers;  Fri 07 Alkestis;  Sat 08 mat  Hugh the Drover;  Sat 08 eve  Aïda.

Glasgow, w/c 10 November:  Mon 10 Carmen;  Tue 11 Mastersingers;  Wed 12 mat Alkestis;  Wed 12 eve  Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 13 Magic Flute;  Fri 14  Golden Cockerel;  Sat 15 mat Aïda;  Sat 15 eve Marriage of Figaro.

Glasgow, w/c 17 November:  Mon 17 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 18 Bohème;  Wed 19 mat  Magic Flute;  Med 19 eve  Aïda;  Thu 20 Eve of St John & Perfect Fool;  Fri 21 Hugh the Drover;  Sat 22 mat Gianni Schicchi  Pagliacci;  Sat 22 eve Tannhäuser.

Glasgow, w/c 24 November:  Mon 24 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 25  Faust;  Wed 26 mat Golden Cockerel;  Wed 26 eve Magic Flute;  Thu 27 Hugh the Drover;  Fri 28  Carmen;  Sat 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 29 eve Mastersingers.

Performance Cast


Robert Parker (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Raymond Ellis (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Edna Thornton (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Sylvia Nelis (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Browning Mummery (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Frederic Collier (Oct 30; Nov 20)


Sydney Russell (Nov 20)

First Girl

May Blyth (Nov 20)

Second Girl

Jessie Mitchell (Nov 20)

Third Girl

Gladys Leathwood (Nov 20)

Spirit of Earth

Lenore Leslie (Nov 20)

Spirit of Water

Eily Gerald (Nov 20)

Spirit of Fire

Olive Joyner (Nov 20)

Performance DatesPerfect Fool 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

30 Oct, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

20 Nov, 19.30

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