Opera Scotland

Iolanthe 1918D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

Read more about the opera Iolanthe

The long-awaited Armistice approaches

The autumn 1918 tour of the D'Oyly Carte company included a four-week trip north of the central belt, with an identical programme in Aberdeen followed by Dundee. Iolanthe had the Monday evening and the Saturday matinee in the first week.

There were substantial changes in personnel since the previous visit in 1916.  The most significant of these was undoubtedly due to the death of Fred Billington, who had been a principal for over thirty years.  His replacement, Leo Sheffield, had already sung these ''Pooh-Bah'' roles in earlier years, as well as touring in shows such as The Chocolate Soldier.

The highly-regarded young Australian tenor Edward McKeown had been on good form in Aberdeen and for the first two nights in Dundee. Thereafter he was one of several company members who fell a victim to the prevailing 'Spanish' influenza pandemic, and withdrew.  Who sang Tolloller at the final matinee is to be established.


Preview of the D'Oyly Carte Opera in Dundee

Dundee Advertiser:  Friday, 18 October 1918

Gilbert-Sullivan Opera at HM Theatre

'The D'Oyly Carte Company, with its always attractive Gilbert-Sullivan operas comes to us again on Monday after too long an absence.   An attractive programme has been arranged for the fortnight's stay, and the booking is already going briskly.   During the first week Iolanthe, The Yeomen of the Guard, The Gondoliers, HMS Pinafore, Princess Ida, and The Mikado are underlined for the evenings and Iolanthe again at the Saturday matinee.

'The company has altered necessarily in personnel since its last visit, but has not failed to be kept by Mrs D'Oyly Carte up to the standard of excellence which has always been associated with her husband's name.   Among the clever principals, the name of Henry A Lytton should alone assure success, and associated with him is that fine comedian, Leo Sheffield, who now undertakes the Pooh-Bah parts so long played by the late Fred Billington.   The bulk of the singing falls to Edward M'Keown (an Australian tenor),  Phyllis Dicksee,  Helen Gilliland,  Catherine Ferguson,  Bertha Lewis,  Frederick Hobbs, and Frank Wilson.   The male chorus, rarely seen now in lyric opera, is still at full strength, and includes several “silver-badgers” who have already done their bit on quite another stage.'


Two Dundee Reviews

Dundee Courier & Argus:  Tuesday, 22 Octobe 1918

Her Majesty's Theatre - Iolanthe

'Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” not “Out of sight out of mind,” is the proverb which applies to the reception last night of our old and most valued friends the D'Oyly Carte Opera Company.  It is two years since we saw the company and in this space many changes have taken place in the company.  Familiar names on the programme are few and far between; familiar faces on the stage are almost as scanty.  Still the excellence all round of Mr Rupert D'Oyly Carte's Company is well maintained, despite that gentleman's own personal absence on naval duty.

'Iolanthe, while, of course, one of the slightest of the Gilbert and Sullivan operas, has always been one of the most charming.  The Fairy element has never been so successfully produced on our stage, at least in opposition to such a prosaic body as the House of Lords.  The Gilbertian libretto is at his best with his professional knowledge of legal lingo, and in at least one solo - Iolanthe's immortal ballad - Sullivan is at his best.

'Comparisons are always odious, and therefore to be avoided.  We try to treat last night's performance on its own merits, which were many.  Mr Lytton's Lord Chancellor is as clever and convincing as ever.  His legal cast of face suits the role to perfection, and he delighted the full house with everything he said, sang, acted, and danced.  Encores were exceptionally numerous, and of these Mr Lytton had his full share.  Miss Bertha Lewis, as the Queen of the Fairies, sang and acted with rare breadth and real Gilbert and Sullivan spirit.  Mr Frederick Hobbs, an old member of the company, lent much dignity to the part of Lord Mountararat.

'The newcomers are many. Miss Helen Gilliland, the new Phyllis, has a bright, light voice, very suitable for the part, and Miss Catherine Ferguson, while not making the most of the exquisite ballad, was a daintily sweet Iolanthe.  The three leading fairies were delightfully represented by Misses Elsie Coram, Ella Quartly, and Kitty Twinn.  Miss Quartly, if we mistake not her name in the programme, was specially Gilbertian in her speech.

'Mr Edward M'Keown, the new tenor, has a delightful voice, and a dignified manner, particularly appropriate to a member of the House of Lords, and Mr Frank Wilson, no stranger to the company, we think, sang the Sentry's Song with great success.  Mr Leo Sheffield's Strephon was wonderfully good.  It is too light a part for him, but he acted with excellent grace, and sang with musicianly skill.

'The chorus was not quite up to its usual form.  We expect the male parts to be thus, but the feminine tone was also lacking in quantity, if not in quality.  The band was also not the best we have heard.  Still the performance, with its clever story, brilliant dialogue, exquisite music, and excellent performance, was a pure delight.'


Dundee Evening Telegraph & Post:  Tuesday, 22 October 1918

Her Majesty's Theatre - The D'Oyly Carte Opera Company

'The Savoy operas are unique. They have their imitators, but not their equals. No where in the literature of light opera can there be found librettos so interesting and witty or music so scholarly and melodious. The fortnight's festival of music opened last night with Iolanthe, the most delicate and dainty of the set.  To a house packed to the doors and an audience keen, even eager, to enjoy the good things of wit and music, the company gave of its very best.  Mr Henry A Lytton was the same sprightly, susceptible Chancellor of old, and sang and acted with his never-failing artistic reticence.

'Mr Frederick Hobbs as Mountararat, if at times a little heavy, scored a success in “When Britain Really Ruled the Waves,” and Mr Leo Sheffield acted the part of Strephon well enough to show how versatile he is.  As Private Willis, Mr Frank Wilson deserved his encore for a richly humorous rendering of the Sentry's Song, and Miss Bertha Lewis, as the Fairy Queen, both in song and speech had the real Savoy touch.

'Of the newcomers we must welcome the new tenor, Mr Edward M'Keown, as Tolloller. He has a handsome presence, a quiet, effective manner, and a good voice, which did every justice to “Blue Blood.” The part of Iolanthe is a small one, but in it Miss Catherine Ferguson acted with a wistful sweetness and sang her beautiful song - and how beautiful it is! - at the end of the second act with an appealing earnestness.  A sweet singer with a light touch and a light voice, Miss Helen Gilliland made a delightful Phyllis both in acting and singing.  The chorus sang well, though the vocal tone of the ladies seemed deficient in volume, and the band score was well enough rendered.'


D'Oyly Carte No 1 Company Scottish Tour - 1918

The repertoire for the visits to Aberdeen and Dundee included eight works:  Trial By JurySorcerer;  HMS PinaforeIolanthePrincess IdaMikado Yeomen of the GuardGondoliers.

Trial By Jury appeared twice at each venue.  It was a curtain-raiser for both HMS Pinafore and The Sorcerer.

The performance schedule was:

Aberdeen, w/c 7 October:  Mon 7 Iolanthe;  Tue 8 Yeomen;  Wed 9 Gondoliers;  Thu 10 Trial by Jury & HMS Pinafore;  Fri 11 Princess Ida;  Sat 12 m Iolanthe; Sat 12 e Mikado.

Aberdeen, w/c 14 October:  Mon 14 Mikado;  Tue 15 Patience;  Wed 16 Trial by Jury & Sorcerer;  Thu 17 Mikado;  Fri 18 Yeomen;  Sat 19 m Pirates;  Sat 19 e Gondoliers.

Dundee, w/c 21 October:  Mon 21 Iolanthe;  Tue 22 Yeomen;  Wed 23 Gondoliers;  Thu 24 Trial by Jury & HMS Pinafore;  Fri 25 Princess Ida;  Sat 26 m Iolanthe; Sat 26 e Mikado.

Dundee, w/c 28 October:  Mon 28 Mikado;  Tue 29 Patience;  Wed 30 Trial by Jury & Sorcerer;  Thu 31 Mikado;  Fri 1 November Yeomen;  Sat 2 m Pirates;  Sat 2 e Gondoliers.

Edinburgh and Glasgow dates to be confirmed.


This cast is as reported in the Dundee Advertiser and Dundee Courier & Argus, on Tuesday 22 October.

Performance Cast

Celia a Fairy

Elsie Coram (Oct 21)

Leila a Fairy

Ella Quartly (Oct 21)

Fleta a Fairy

Kitty Twinn (Oct 21)

Queen of the Fairies

Bertha Lewis (Oct 21)

Iolanthe a Fairy, Strephon's Mother

Catherine Ferguson (Oct 21)

Strephon an Arcadian Shepherd

Leo Sheffield (Oct 21)

Phyllis an Arcadian Shepherdess and Ward in Chancery

Helen Gilliland (Oct 21)

Earl of Mountararat

Frederick Hobbs (Oct 21)

Earl Tolloller

Edward McKeown Oct 21)

Lord Chancellor

Henry Lytton (Oct 21)

Private Willis B Company, 1st Grenadier Guards

Frank Wilson (Oct 21)

Performance DatesIolanthe 1918

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

7 Oct, 19.30 12 Oct, 14.15

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

21 Oct, 19.30 26 Oct, 14.15

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