Opera Scotland

Queen of Sheba 1911Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Queen of Sheba

Goldmark's grand romantic opera had been premiered in Vienna in 1875, only a few years after Aïda, which clearly inspired it, along with elements of Tannhäuser.  The opera's slender biblical content ensured that, like its contemporary Samson et Dalila, it was banned from performance in Britain.   It took thirty-five years to reach London, after Salome broke down that barrier.  The Carl Rosa company may have been prompted to give it a try in 1910 by the success of Caruso's recent recording of the big tenor aria the previous year.

The only English translation mentioned in Loewenberg's Annals of Opera is one prepared  by Cornell for Boston in 1888 - no translator is specified against Manchester, which generally indicates a previously existing one was used.

Cast details for the first Edinburgh performance, on Friday, 10 March are as reviewed in the following day's Scotsman.  A briefer account of the second performance on 16 March is from the next morning's Scotsman review.

 

The Edinburgh Assessment

Scotsman:  Saturday, 11 March 1911  (p8)

Carl Rosa Company - The Queen of Sheba

'The prospect of seeing Carl Goldmark's opera - The Queen of Sheba - performed for the first time in Scotland, drew a large audience to the King's Theatre last night.  Produced for the first time in Great Britain about three months ago by the Carl Rosa management, the work is one of the most important additions to the repertory of the company which has been seen for years;  and alike on account of its dramatic theme, its fine musical qualities, and the lovely stage pictures which are evolved in the course of its representation, the opera is likely to hold its own  with other serious music-dramas in popular favour.

'The author of the opera, Carl Goldmark, was born in Hungary in 1830.  His father was a ''cantor'' in the Jewish synagogue of Keszthely.  His musical education was received at Vienna, where he ultimately settled as a teacher of music and composed numerous pieces for the pianoforte.  It is stated that he took ten years to the composition of this, his first opera - Die Königin von Saba, - to a libretto by Mosenthal, and it was first performed at Vienna,  10th March 1875 - thirty-six years ago last night - and was an immediate success.

'Up to the present time its scriptural subject has prevented it being given in this country.  There does not seem, however, any serious reason why it should have been proscribed so long.  There is nothing particularly sacred about the person of King Solomon or his resplendent court;  what one would rather complain of is that the librettist should have gone out of his way to smirch the reputation of the picturesque, if somewhat shadowy figure of the Queen of Sheba, ''who came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon,'' by making her a Delilah.  There is, indeed, in the story a strong suggestion of the motive of Tannhäuser - the flesh and the devil in the form of a beautiful woman leading manhood captive, and in the working out of this theme it was perhaps inevitable that the influence of the music of Wagner should make itself felt.  The English libretto is in simple poetical diction of pleasing quality and considerable Oriental colour.

'The soul in this case for which the forces of darkness and light contend is that of Assad, a youthful Israelitish prince,  who is betrothed to Sulamith, the young and radiant daughter of King Solomon.  Assad had formed part of the Royal escort of the Queen of Sheba on her journey to Jerusalem, but beneath Mount Lebanon he had found another Venusberg, and on his return to Court polluted, dare not lift his eyes to meet the pure glance of Sulamith, whose grief thereat is profound, for great is her love for her betrothed.  The Queen of Sheba, in the midst of her Royal cohort, has travelled veiled, but a marvellous thing occurs, for when Her Majesty shows her face to King Solomon,  Assad, now half demented, recognises it as that of the Syren who had beitched him in the cedar grove.  She, however, in public, scorns him as a madman, but afterwards, in the garden, by moonlight, again throws her insidious spell upon him.

'The King decrees that the marriage shall go on, hoping that the evil spirit in Assad will be cast out, and there is an impressive scene in the Temple, wjich ends in tragic fashion - like as did Tannhäuser's entrance to the Hall of Song.  The Queen, determined not to lose hold upon Assad,  appears among the Jewish worshippers on pretence of presenting a nuptial gift to the bride.  The High Priest is in the act of exorcising the evil spirit, when the Queen whispers the name of Assad.  At the witching voice the infatuated youth leaves Sulamith, and rushing towards the Queen proclaims her as the goddess he adores.  For this profanation of the Temple, he is seized by the Levites, dragged to judgment, and condemned to death.

'The Queen begs his life of King Solomon, but he, believing now that she is the cause of Assad's downfall, refuses, and she leaves the Jewish Court with threats upon her lips.  To his heart-stricken daughter Sulamith, however, the Monarch grants the boon, and Assad goes into desert exile.  The Princess also proposes to retire to a desert asylum with some holy virgins, to spend the rest of her days, and on her way thither encounters Assad under a palm tree, his life fast ebbing forth.  The Queen had again sought him so that he might accompany her to Sheba, where he is promised rich rewards,  but in his strivings with this personification of evil,  Assad this time triumphs, but it is at the expense of his life.  Sulmith comforts his dying moments, and to a chorus of maidens, his purified spirit is wafted to blissful realms.

'This fine dramatic story is treated by the composer in a masterly manner, and throughout the work we have the libretto set to a series of beautiful airs, grand ''scenas,'' and choruses, to which are superadded the charm of an orchestration of striking and effective merit.  Every act has something distinctive,  the consequence being that the musical interest of the work is sustained at a high pitch from the opening pastoral prelude to the closing chorus.  A few of the outstanding features of the opera may be briefly noted.  In the first act there is a joyous love song by Sulamith, with a chorus for her maidens;  a powerfully written and happily orchestrated  grand tenor scena for Assad;  and a full and impressive chorus, with an appropriate semi-barbaric accompaniment, in which welcome is given to the Queen of Sheba.

'The passionate music of the garden scene for the Queen and Assad is dramatic in quality and to the great Temple scene praise alone can be given.  Into the Temple music old Jewish themes are woven with charming effect, and it was educative to this extent also  that the whole ceremonial details were perfect in their character and at the same time most picturesque.

'A blythesome note is introduced into the start of the third act, where we have a brightly written Bacchanale for the dancers;  there is a telling scene where the Queen of Sheba endeavours to cast her wiles over the King; followed by an impressive wailing chorus by Sulamith and her maidens.

'The opera, indeed, as already suggested, is worked out in a thoroughly musicianly manner by a master who has given each of the characters a distinctive musical personality, who has the gift of stagecraft, and who writes in an interesting and accomplished style.

'The opera had the advantagr last night of receiving a thoroughly satisfactory rendering.  Every part was admirably filled, and chorus and orchestra contributed greatly to the general effect.  Miss Doris Woodall threw the witchery of her art over the role of the Queen of Sheba, the music of which she sang with rare dramatic effect.   A gracious and maidenly Sulamith was contributed by Miss Beatrice Miranda, whose light soprano voice did ample justice to the somewhat trying music of the part;  and as Assad Mr Walter Wheatley had a role in which his fine tenor voice and dramatic gifts had ample scope.  Mr Winckworth was well suited also in the part of King Solomon; and small parts were nicely filled by Mr Alexander Richard (as the High Priest), Mr George M Reid , and Miss Annie Van Dyck.

'The audience were greatly interested in this fine performance, and frequently applauded the performers.  Mr Goossens was conductor.'

 

A Second Edinburgh Viewing

Scotsman:  Friday, 17 March  1911  (p6)

Carl Rosa Company - The Queen of Sheba

'The fame of this opera, which was produced for the first time in Scotland by the Carl Rosa Company last Friday, having been noised abroad, there was a crowded audience last night at the King's Theatre on the occasion of the second performance of this work.  Another hearing deepens the impression formed a week ago regarding the beautiful quality alike of the choral and orchestral music, and the varied, picturesque, and admirable manner in which the eminently dramatic theme is treated throughout the four acts.

'Ample recognition was specially made by the audience to the thrilling garden scene;  to the simple and devotional choral music of the Temple, which has so tragic a termination; and to the impressive lament of the third act, with its telling air for Sulamith, and its female chorus accompaniment.The rôle of the daughter of Solomon was again taken by Miss Beatrice Miranda, who played with charming maidenly grace, and sang with great purity and effect.  One of the best vocal efforts of the evening was the number of the third act just referred to, in which the fine quality and power of Miss Miranda's upper register notes were heard to much advantage.

'Mr Winckworth was King Solomon and sang with power.  His clear articulation might with advantage have been followed by one or two other members of the company.  Two important parts had changed hands.  Miss Emma Loeffler was the Queen of Sheba, and if her acting in the rôle had no particular distinction, she sang the music in a cultured style, but in the garden scene, where she was dramatic and effective, part of the duet with Assad was drowned by the overpowering orchestra.

'Mr Hedmondt was the Assad of the evening.  He sang with all his usual artistry and suavity, though in the first act his rendering of the grand scena, in which the temptation is recited, was distinctly lacking in power.  His acting was sympathetic and full of feeling.  The quaint Eastern setting and dresses were much admired.  The opera, produced under the leadership of Mr Goossens, had again a flattering reception.  To-night Faust.'

 

And the Glasgow Opinion

Glasgow Herald:  Friday, 24 March 1911  (p9)

The Queen of Sheba - Carl Rosa Opera Company

'Only a few years ago it seemed impossible that we should hear The Queen of Sheba in this country.  The censor was inexorable towards works of its class, although the ''sacred story'' of banned opera was often profane enough in essence.  The story of Samson and Delilah is told almost daily in some form or other.  In so far as Saint-Saëns's opera touches the religious side of the hero it is generous in whitewash.  The Samson of Holy Writ is not nearly so pious and smooth-spoken as his musical brother.   After Saint- Saëns had been admitted into British theatres it was inevitable that the ban should be removed from Goldmark.  The Queen of Sheba is only slightly connected with the Bible story, and it would lose nothing if it were transferred, with changed names, to Babylon or Egypt.

'The plot centres round one Assad, who had been sent as ambassador to the Queen of Sheba, and by the way had fallen under the enchantment of an unknown lady.  He was to be married to Sulamith, the daughter of the High Priest, but on his return to Jerusalem, at the opening of the piece, he tells the King of his adventures, and refuses to fulfil his engagement.  The Queen arrives on her visit to Solomon, and when she unveils Assad hails the mistress of his dreams.  The Queen denies all knowledge of him, but in the royal garden in the second act again casts a spell over him.  The King has hastened on preparations for Assad's marriage, but when the unwilling bridegroom is at the altar he throws the ring from him and declares his passion for the Queen.  His sentence of death for profanation of the temple is changed to that of exile, and in the desert the Queen again seeks him.  But Assad, broken in heart, now repulses her.  A sandstorm eventually overtakes the unfortunate hero, and in the end he dies in Sulamith's arms.

'Such a story provides the composer with plenty of spectacle, and with Meyerbeer to point the way, he takes full advantage of it all.  The splendours of Solomon's Court, the glories of an Eastern garden at moonrise the sacred rites of the Temple inspire the stage manager to a special display of his gifts, and with choruses, marches, ballets,  and the rest a series of brilliant pictures is provided.  Goldmark owes more to Wagner, however, than to Meyerbeer.  His voice parts are mostly declamatory, and great importance is given to the orchestra.  The music is that of a master of technical device, and the score is rich in ideas and in colour.

'The well-known march is only one example of what the composer can do in the grand manner.  The love music in the second act shows the composer in his best vein; if it is not equal to the music of the garden scene in Tristan it has at least some of the latter's emotional power.  Goldmark follows Wagner in the matter of form, but his ideas are largely his own.  Eastern colour is judiciously used, and the whole opera, if it does not strike a deeply original note, is full of interest and charm.

'The performance of the Carl Rosa Company in the Grand Theatre last night was in all respects worthy of the theme and of the composer.  The opera was beautifully mounted, and was worth seeing for its pictures of palaces and temples.  Mr Goossens had his chorus and orchestra perfectly in hand. and both worked with the principals to produce the best results.   The performance, in short, showed an artistic guiding hand right down to its smallest detail.

'As the Queen of Sheba Miss Doris Woodall sang and acted with great power, and she was admirably partnered by Mr E C Hedmondt as Assad.  Miss Beatrice Miranda found in the part of Sulamith music suited to her voice and style, and she was specially successful towards the close of the third act.  Mr Arthur Winckworth made a solemn, dignified Solomon, and Mr Alexander Richard and Miss Annie Van Dyke were excellent as the High Priest and Astaroth.

'The opera proved a very long one, and in spite of cuts and the entire omission of the Queen's part from the fourth act the performance was not over till eleven o' clock.  The large audience, however, were enthusiastic to the end, and on the fall of the curtain made their approval of opera and performance abundantly plain.'

 

The Carl Rosa Scottish Tour - 1911

The tour consisted of five weeks at three locations, two at Edinburgh (King's), two Glasgow (Grand), and one Greenock (King's).

The thirteen operas in the repertoire were: Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Benedict (Lily of Killarney);  Balfe (Bohemian Girl);  Thomas (Mignon);  Wallace (Maritana);  Wagner (TannhäuserLohengrin);  Verdi (Trovatore);  Gounod (Faust);  Goldmark (Queen of Sheba);  Bizet (Carmen);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana).

The schedule was:

Edinburgh, w/c 6 March:  Mon 6 Tannhäuser;  Tue 7  Carmen;  Wed 8  Lily of Killarney;  Thu 9 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 10  Queen of Sheba;  Sat 11 m Cav & Pag;  Sat 11 e Trovatore.

Edinburgh, w/c 13 March:  Mon 13 Lohengrin;  Tue 14 Mignon;  Wed 15 Bohemian Girl;  Thu 16 Queen of Sheba;  Fri 17 Faust;  Sat 18 m Mignon; Sat 18 e Lily of Killarney.

Glasgow, w/c 20 March:  Mon 20 Mignon;  Tue 21 Faust;  Wed 22 Lily of Killarney;  Thu 23 Queen of Sheba;  Fri 24 Trovatore;  Sat 25 m Mignon; Sat 25 e Bohemian Girl.

Glasgow, w/c 27 March:  Mon 27 Carmen;  Tue 28 Cav & Pag;  Wed 29 Queen of Sheba;  Thu 30 Mignon;  Fri 31 Tannhäuser;  Sat 1 Apr m Queen of Sheba;  Sat 1 Apr e Lly of Killarney.

Greenock, w/c 3 April:  Mon 3 Carmen;  Tue 4 Faust;  Wed 5 Maritana:  Thu 6 Queen of Sheba;  Fri 7 Tannhäuser;  Sat 8 m Mignon;  Sat 8 e Bohemian Girl.

Performance Cast

King Solomon

Arthur Winckworth (Mar 10, 16, 23)

Baal Hanan the palace overseer

George M Reid (Mar 10)

Assad a courtier, and favourite of the King

Walter Wheatley (Mar 10)

Charles Hedmondt (Mar 16, 23)

High Priest

Alexander Richard (Mar 10, 23)

Sulamith the High Priest's daughter

Beatrice Miranda (Mar 10, 16, 23)

Queen of Sheba

Doris Woodall (Mar 10, 23)

Emma Loeffler (Mar 16)

Astaroth the Queen's slave

Annie Van Dyck (Mar 10, 23)

Production Cast

Conductor

Eugene Goossens II (Mar 10, 16, 23)

Translator

John Henry Cornell

Performance DatesQueen of Sheba 1911

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

10 Mar, 19.30 16 Mar, 19.30

Grand Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

23 Mar, 19.30 29 Mar, 19.30 1 Apr, 14.30

King's Theatre, Greenock | Greenock

6 Apr, 19.30

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