Opera Scotland

Rheingold 1910Denhof Opera Company

Read more about the opera Rhinegold

Until this highly ambitious production of two performances of the Ring, Das Rheingold had not been heard in Scotland - indeed the entire cycle had not been given outside London, and only there as recently as 1908. It is clear that no effort or expense was spared in the preparations. The Scottish Orchestra was recruited, and reinforced with additional players from London. Sets, costumes and stage machinery were specially ordered from Germany. The conductor, Michael Balling, had recently conducted the Ring at Bayreuth. Most of the singers were at the top of their profession, and several of them had participated in those 1908 cycles at Covent Garden. Taken overall, the standard of performance was agreed to be excellent.

Seat prices for the cycle ranged from £4 4/- for the Dress Circle down to £1 for the seats at the back of the Gallery. Individual evenings simply cost one quarter of that. Boxes were still in those days highly sought after, and a Grand Tier Box for one cycle was priced at £25 4/-. The Third Tier Boxes, with a bird's eye view of the auditorium, but none at all of the stage, cost £8 8/-

Cast details are compiled from reviews in the Scotsman and Aberdeen Daily Journal on 1 March.

 

An Edinburgh Review

Scotsman:  Monday, 1 March 1910  (p7)

Wagner's 'Ring' in Edinburgh - First Drama The Rhinegold

'A musical enterprise of the highest importance was launched successfully at the King's Theatre, Edinburgh, last night, when, by the production of The Rhinegold a beginning was made with the first cycle of Wagner's musico-dramatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung.  All parts of the house (except the gallery) were filled, and the general appearance of the auditorium was brilliant.  It is safe to say that there has never been such an audience in the King's Theatre;  and it may be added that though the performance began ten minutes late, the reason was not due to delays behind the scenes, or to any lack of efficiency on the part of the management which looked to the prompt seating of an audience of some 2500, but to the fact that a long array of cabs and motors, extending well down to the Lothian Road, made it undesirable to go on.  In the actual performance there was a slight saving on the schedule time.

'Some months ago Edinburgh opinion was in doubt as to the possibility of The Ring being produced in the Scottish capital at all.  Wagner's work is conceived on a colossal scal.  The vocal music is heavy on the singers, and often none too grateful to the listeners.  The demands imposed on the orchestra are continuous and severe.  The staging is admittedly difficult in the extreme, and any obvious hitch would cause many of the most impressive scenes to assume the aspect of pantomime..  Wagner himself was fain to confess that for the proper presentation of The Ring a special theatre was required; and thanks to the enthusiasm of his friends,  such a temple of Wagnerian opera was at last raised in the little town of Bayreuth, in Bavaria, so long ago as 1876.

'Subsequently, however, performances at Munich, Leipzig, Hamburg and Berlin were successfully carried through.  London first saw it in 1882; and the fine performances given in Covent Garden Theatre in recent years under the guidance of Dr Hans Richter confirmed the opinion that Bayreuth has no monopoly of The Ring.

'To Mr Ernst Denhof belongs the credit of having initiated the project of giving two performances in Edinburgh of the complete cycle.  Hitherto Siegfried and The Valkyrie were alone known to the British provinces.  At one time the difficulties of producing The Ring in the Scottish capital threatened to prove insuperable.  But with priseworthy persistence Mr Denhof adhered to his purpose.  Advantage was taken of the presence in the city of the Carl Rosa Opera Company to secure the co-operation of that organisation; the major part of the Scotish Orchestra, under Mr Verbrugghen, was engaged; special scenery and dresses were ordered to be made in Germany;  Herr Balling, the distinguished young German musicianl who presided at Bayreuth last year, on the recommendation of Dr Richter, was secured as conductor;  the aid of the best British Wagnerian singers was summoned;  and the way was paved for assuring an artistic success.  For it must never be forgotten that if Wagner's Ring is to be done at all, it must be done well.

'It was in these circumstances that a large and distinguished audience, which contained many of the leading patrons of music in Edinburgh,  and a notable contingent from Glasgow and other parts of Scotland, assembled last night in the King's Theatre, awaiting the rise of the curtain, in a state in which curiosity and expectancy were perhaps equally blended.  For in estimating Wagner's influence on a popular basis one must differentiate between those who know, those who are anxious to know, and those who have not the capacity for knowing, and who are really attending a social function.

'Introduced by a short mysterious prelude, consisting of a single chord gradually built up from the fundamental tonic,  the first scene of The Rhinegold is among the happiest of Wagner's spectacular conceptions.  We see a rock under the surface of the Rhine, whereon is deposited the Gold,  and round which three beautiful nymphs disport themselves.  Their tuneful, innocent motive is easily heard.  The entry of Alberich, leader of the Dwarfs,  introduces new motives.  He comes for Love, but his advance being mockingly rejected, he suddenly resolves to abjure Love for Power, which the Gold represents.  With a hideous laugh, he seizes the Gold, and makes off.  The music, it need scarcely be said, is throughout descriptive of the scene, and the motives of the Gold, the Ring, and the Magic Power are easily recognised.

'To those among the audience who had not heard The Ring before, the introductory scene, carried through, as it was, with praiseworthy smoothness, and supported by a quartet of excellent singers, must have created a most favourable first impression.  The Scottish Orchestra, under Mr Verbrugghen, responded loyally to the spirited beat of Mr Balling, and the tone of the instruments was never excessive. It was, indeed, an excellent start that was made with this the first scene of The Rhinegold.  And though there were points in the subsequent acts where the sublime and the ridiculous were brought dangerously close together, the whole setting and rendering of the work, taken in its entirety, was a success. If the subsequent dramas are longer, the strain upon the attention will be relieved by the intervals;  The Rhinegold was played throughout without break.

'After the description of the plot, scenery, and characters given in these columns a fortnight ago, it may suffice here to note some of the outstanding features of the performance.  The singers were almost uniformly good;  and it is only just to say that Mr Balling kept the tone of the orchestra well down throughout.  Mr Frederic Austin did admirable work as Wotan;  he has a sonorous voice and declaims splendidly,  and it is probably due to the ''dignity'' of the part of the chief of the gods that his stage actions were a trifle stilted.   Mr E C Hedmondt, on the other hand, interpreted the part of Loke, the symbol of intrigue and irony, with lively dramatic powers;  his voice has not its old ring, but his vocal art is, if anything, greater than before.  A pretty tenor voice was heard in Mr William Boland's part of Froh, the god of joy.  The two gnomes, Alberich, by Mr Thomas Meux, and Mime, by Mr Sidney Russell,  were excellenty presented, the one in its vicious, the other in its servile aspects.  Mr Russell's delivery of his words was particularly clear;  and this should be the first aim of all vocalists who seek to present Wagner to English audiences;  for whereas the orchestra may be left to speak for itself, the vocalists are responsible for expounding the evolution of the drama,  and a knowledge of the words spoken is essential to an intelligent appreciation of the music-drama as a whole.

'Of the two giants, Fasolt and Fafner, the former, who had an able exponent in Mr Robert Radford, was the more efficient vocally.  Madame Marie Alexander made quite a strong part vocally and dramatically, of Fricka, the wife of Wotan, and her performances in the later dramas will be looked forward to with interest.  Miss Florence Easton as Freia sang and posed with the freshness appropriate to the goddess of youth;  and Madame Edna Thornton as Erda, and previously as Flosshilde, the third of the Rhine maidens, showed that she is steadily advancing as a conscientious dramatic singer.  The other two Rhine-maidens had tuneful representatives in Miss Caroline Harchard and Miss Lilian Cooper.

'Of the care and even labour of all the artists there could be no question;  of the success of the performance as a whole it is the best testimony that no-one seemed disposed to miss the finish.  That is a good augury for the success of the remainder of The Ring, where, as has been said, if the dramas are longer, the tradition is to have intervals for rest and refreshment.  In the stage mechanism there were some hitches; the transformations of Alberich into a snake and a toad were barely plausible even in the dim light;  and the issue of steam to raise the effect of clouds so as to obscure the view of the scene shifter - one of Wagner's egregious fads - was ill-regulated and would have been better achieved by the ordinary device of a gauze curtain and a darkened stage.'

'To-night the second of the Ring dramas, The Valkyrie, is to be  is to be produced.'

Performance Cast

Woglinde a Rhinemaiden

Caroline Hatchard

Wellgunde a Rhinemaiden

Lilian Coomber

Flosshilde a Rhinemaiden

Edna Thornton

Alberich a Nibelung

Thomas Meux

Wotan leader of the gods

Frederic Austin

Fricka wife of Wotan and goddess of marriage

Marie Alexander

Freia sister of Fricka and goddess of love and spring

Florence Easton

Fasolt a giant

Robert Radford

Fafner a giant

Francis Harford

Froh god of joy and youth

William Boland

Donner god of thunder

Charles Knowles

Loge god of fire and cunning

Charles Hedmondt

Mime a Nibelung, Alberich's brother

Sydney Russell

Erda goddess of earth and wisdom

Edna Thornton

Performance DatesRheingold 1910

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

28 Feb, 19.30 7 Mar, 19.30

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