Opera Scotland

Trovatore 1910Castellano Grand Italian Opera

Read more about the opera Trovatore

Cavaliere Castellano organized a company largely of Italian performers that toured Britain several times in the years before the First World War. The repertoire was largely Italian, particularly Verdi (Ernani, Rigoletto, Trovatore, Ballo in maschera), but also Barber of Seville, Lucia and Cav & Pag. Foreign repertoire included Faust, Carmen and even Maritana, All were sung in Italian, which may have improved Wallace's work to a considerable degree, with recitatives composed by Tito Mattei to replace Fitzball's ponderous dialogue.

The audience and critical reception seems to have been highly enthusiastic - the Scotsman critic essentially indicating that this was what Italian opera sounded like in Italy, and should sound like over here, but so rarely did.

Before venturing north of the central belt, the company had already made two visits to Edinburgh. The programme for each week was identical in Aberdeen and Dundee: Mon Trovatore;  Tue Rigoletto;  Wed Cav & Pag;  Thu Carmen;  Fri Barbiere di Siviglia;  Sat mat Lucia di Lammermoor;  Sat eve Faust.  It seems these were the first local performances of The Barber in forty years.

The cast details are from a programme in Aberdeen City Library, with reviews in the Scotsman and two Dundee papers,  the Advertiser. and the Courier & Argus.

Further tour dates to be confirmed.


Edinburgh Opinion

Scotsman:  Tuesday, 4 October 1910 (p6)

Italian Opera in Edinburgh - Il Trovatore at the Theatre Royal

'M Castellano's Italian Opera Company was unfortunate in its first visit to Edinburgh.  It came under the shadow of a great national calamity, the death of King Edward.  Its merits were not appreciated for the simple reason that people were not then in the mood for public entertainment.  Since then the company have won golden opinions in London and the provinces, and the verdict of the audience which assembled in the Theatre-Royal last night on the occasion of the performance in Italian of Il Trovatore was entirely favourable.  Here we have the real Il Trovatore,  as it is presented in Italy, and as it was intended to be presented before Wagnerian theories of scenery and choral perfection, and all the other appanages of an elaborate theatrical art made ordinary people wonder what music on the stage is coming to.

'It was a genuine pleasure to hear the honest open-throated tones of the chief singers in last night's opera.  This is not the time to discuss the logical nexus of the plot of Il Trovatore.  What the music-loving public recognise is that the opera belongs to a period in the development of musical art which may perhaps be out of date, but is still as worthy of reproduction as the art of Palestrina or Gluck.  Sir Alexander Mackenzie, in one of his serious moments, declared that melody is the thing in music that survives.  And Verdi, at the stage of his career when he wrote Il Trovatore, was essentially a melodist. He moved a little further in his later years; but only to show that melody was still paramount. He conceded the improved libretto and the more realistic mise-en-scene,  but he never abandoned melody.

'If there was any feature, apart from the splendid singing of the principals, that might call for attention in last night's performance it was the plainness of the stage and choral support.  The scenes from the spectacular point of view might, after our experience of what Mr Carl Rosa and Mr D'Oyly Carte did, have been placarded on a plain background as in the days of Shakespeare,  ''This is the Forest of Arden.'' The chorus consists of a few resonant voices, who make up in tone what English companies make up in numbers.  But Il Trovatore was never written for fine scenery or grand choruses.  It was written to give the Italian voice a proper chance of display; and Signor Castellano has obviously in his company a number of singers, some of them still unknown to fame, who carry on the tradition which seems to reside in the Italian climate and soil.

'Of last night's leading artists four were outstanding.  These were Signor Barbato as Manrico,  Signora Defral as Leonora,  Signor Vail as the Count di Luna,  and Madame Goretta Castellano as Azucena.  It is to those characters that Verdi gave the best of his music - though Signor Vittori's masterly and vivid rendering of the part of Ferrando suggested a capacity for greater honours.  The Azucena of Madame Castellano and the Leonora of Signora Defral may be coupled as strongly impressing the audience,  the former perhaps more with her dramatic, the latter with her vocal art.

'There were points at which the personation of the gipsy seemed to verge upon hysteria, though, of course, that is in the piece.  But, taken broadly, Madame Castellano's part was, both in its dramatic and vocal aspect, admirably realised.  Her  fair hair was, like the feathered helmet of Manrico, one of the discrepancies to which the story lends itself.  Miss Defral sang and acted with great impressiveness.  Particularly in the ''Miserere'' scene her vocalisation was brilliant, while her acting met the demands of a vivid though artificial situation which has few parallels in opera.

'But the vocal displays of the two men, Signor Vail and Signor Barbato,  were to the opera-goer who may have been led away from the appreciation of sound singing by the fancy aids of dressing and scenery something in the way of a revelation.  Signor Barbato is a tenor of magnificent powers, and when it is said that he seemed more fit in his last scene than in his first, his command of his voice may be estimated.   Signor Vail's ''Il Balen'' was not encored;  It was so fine that the audience seemed to feel that a repetition would spoil it;  but the merits of his rich and rare baritone voice were fully appreciated. 

'At the close of each act the performers were recalled again and again to the footlights.  With an inviting programme for the coming fortnight,  which excludes Wagner, but includes Rossini's Barber of Seville and Verdi's Masked Ball, Signor Castellano's company should be assured the patronage  of all who recognise the claim of Italy to operatic honours.


Dundee Previews

Dundee Advertiser:  Friday, 21 October 1910    (p8)

Italian Opera - Visit to Dundee

'On Monday first an engagement commences at Her Majesty's Theatre that should receive the consideration and support of all interested in things operatic. The Italian Grand Opera Company of Cavaliere Castellano will then give the first of seven performances announced for the week. This company, although unknown in Dundee, has been in England for over a year and a half, a fact which is not without significance as evidence of merit. Further evidence is forthcoming in the shape of favourable reports from Edinburgh, where a two-weeks' sojourn was made, and from Aberdeen, where performances are this week being given. At Drury Lane - a former home of opera under Mapleson - Signor Castellano and his coadjutors showed themselves not unworthy of the historic house.

'The company claims to be especially strong in solo artists. Naturally it considers opera from the Italian point of view; that is, it does not regard opera as drama, nor does it make it a pretext for elaborate choral “effects,” or intricate and overwhelming orchestration; but rather believes that it should be an entertainment chiefly consisting of beautiful melody and lovely voices. Although orchestra and chorus are thought more than sufficient to their several tasks, the company stands or falls chiefly by the excellence of its principal singers. It is claimed that the passion and emotion that lie in the music of a Verdi can only be properly felt by an audience when that music is interpreted by natives of Italy.

'The operas to be sung include three that have not been performed in Dundee for a very long time indeed.  Those are the Rigoletto of Verdi, in which the parts of Gilda and the Duke have been taken by all the famous sopranos and tenors of the last 50 years; the Il Barbiere di Siviglia of Rossini, a celebrated comic masterpiece; and Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor, founded on Sir Walter Scott's tragic romance.  More familiar works included in the scheme are Il Trovatore, which opens the too brief season, Cavalleria Rusticana, I Pagliacci, Carmen and Faust.

'It is unnecessary meantime to mention performers' names, as they would only be that and nothing more.

'The opportunity of hearing Italian opera given in the vernacular by Italian artists is one that is not likely to occur frequently.  Even at Covent Garden the company is generally of a variegated nature as regards nationality. The present chance is therefore not likely to be missed by astute Dundonians ready to take advantage of the transient gifts of the gods. With the assistance of the inexpensive sketch of the plot to be had at Messrs Paterson's there should be no difficulty in following any opera.'


Dundee Courier & Argus:  Friday: 21 October 1910   (p7)

Italian Grand Opera at Her Majesty’s Theatre

'It is so long since opera in Italian has been heard in Dundee that it is perhaps permissible to refer to previous performances.

'The first performances in Italian ever attempted in Dundee were on 21st and 22nd March, 1850, when Il Barbiere di Siviglia and Don Pasquale were presented.  So small success attended this exploit that for seventeen years nothing further in the way of Italian opera was tried, although there were frequent visits from English opera companies, in which figured such well-remembered names as those of Louisa Pyne, Ida Gillies Corri, Henri Corri, Fanny Harrison, Haydn Corri, Parkinson, the two Mdlles Alessandri, Ferdinand Gaynor, and Charles Durand.

'It was not until March 1877, in the reign of the late Mr William M’Farland at the Theatre Royal, Castle Street, that another taste of opera in Italian was given to Dundee.  Then the Imperial Italian Opera Company, headed by Mdlles Robiati and Emma Howson, that great dramatic contralto Madame Demeric-Lablache, Signori Vizzani, Garda, and Germano, appeared in Il Trovatore, Lucia di Lammermoor, Le Nozze di Figaro, La Sonnambula, La Traviata, and Rigoletto.  This was before the days of matinees, but a grand morning concert was given on the Saturday, the programme of which was not, however, entirely Italian.

'In May 1878, Mr M’Farland brought to the Theatre Royal an Italian and English opera company which played Il Trovatore, La Traviata, and La Sonnambula in Italian.  Madame Sinico, who that week made her first appearance in English opera, was the prima donna of this company, which also contained the names of Mdlle Corani, Mdlle Franchi, Signor Gariboy, and Signor Campobello, and that excellent musician, Signor Tito Mattei, was the director of the music and conductor.

'Since then we have had visits from many English opera companies, but never had opera sung in Italian.

'Next week’s performances at Her Majesty’s Theatre will therefore come as a refreshing novelty to most of those who depend solely upon what is brought to Dundee for their entertainment.  Those who still remember Italian opera here will find something different from what they heard before.

'The operas are not only to be sung in Italian, but - with two exceptions - Italian is their original language, and, without any exception, every principal of the company is a native of Italy.  Cavaliere F Castellano’s company made its first appearance in Great Britain at the Coronet Theatre, London, in May of last year, and it has been with us ever since.  It had a most successful season at Drury Lane; has paid two visits to Edinburgh, having been there for a fortnight quite recently; and it is again booked for the Scottish capital.  The company, besides an array of principals capable of producing, practically without notice, any opera from a repertoire of thirty, brings a chorus of about 40 and a band of nearly 20.  The productions do not depend so much upon fine dressing or staging, upon orchestral fireworks, upon big choral effects, or upon startling ballets, but upon the ability of the soloists to reproduce the vocal music of the Italian masters as it ought to be sung.

'The Italian operas to be sung are Verdi’s Il Trovatore on Monday, and his Rigoletto on Tuesday; Mascagni’s Cavalleria Rusticana and Leoncavallo’s I Pagliacci on Wednesday; Rossini’s famous comic opera Il Barbiere di Siviglia - not heard here for many years - on Friday; and Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor at Saturday’s matinee.  On Thursday evening Bizet’s Carmen will be played, and Gounod’s Faust on Saturday night, both French operas, but, of course, to be sung in Italian.

'The most of these operas are familiar in Dundee, and the fact that they will be sung in Italian will only add to their charm and expressiveness.  The acting of the Italians will be found to be illuminating of the story and of the thoughts, feelings, and passions of the characters.  Those who desire it can purchase for the sum of one penny from Messrs Paterson, Sons & Co., or at Her Majesty’s a copy of the story of any of the operas.  With this as a guide, no one need fear being able to follow the plot.'


Dundee Reviews

Dundee Advertiser: Tuesday, 25 October 1910  (p10)

Italian Opera - Performance at Her Majesty’s Theatre

'Those who desire a fresh and exhilarating sensation in matters musical would do well to visit Her Majesty’s this week, where the Cavaliere Castellano’s company of Italian artists is giving a series of operas in the Italian tongue.  Last night Il Trovatore was the work performed, and it is safe to say that if Rigoletto, Il Barbiere, and the rest are rendered with the same vim and enthusiasm that were then exhibited audiences of the next five nights are in for a very good time indeed.

'A year or two ago opera of the earlier Italian school was thought to be as good as dead.  It was hardly conceivable, so some people said, that, after the strains of Wagnerian music-drama, which are usually so well fitted to the word and deed, any one could be found to listen to the often inappropriate roulades and fioriture of the days before the Ring.  But the unexpected has once more happened, and it looks as if Verdi, Donizetti, and others of that ilk were to have a good innings.  Doubtless this renaissance is due in large part to Tetrazzini and Caruso, whose great gifts find their best medium for expression in the works of their compatriots; but to say this is also to imply that these works are, from a vocal point of view, valuable - after all, no small matter.  It has already been stated in these columns that any kind of opera is a convention.  Between rival conventions who shall decide?  Early Verdi and late Wagner - both have good points, and both have weak ones.  The strength of the Italians lies in their unfailing supply of luscious melody suited, above all, for vocal expression.  Without this, Italian opera would hardly be worth consideration.  With it, it may in the long run prove to be more than a match for the competitors.

'It is late in the day to draw attention to the melodic, and sometimes harmonic, charm of Il Trovatore.  Morceaux like “Il Balen” (“The tempest of the heart”), “Si la stanchezza” (Home to our mountains”), and the impressive “Miserere” are known to most people who know anything of matters operatic.  Indeed, like the daisy and the rose, they are so familiar that we sometimes forget to recognise their beauty.  They excuse the extremely melodramatic and extravagant plot, and make endurable and even pleasurable scenes and ideas of horror.  But they demand singers of culture, singers whose voices are capable of a true cantabile.

'The principals of the Castellano Company are one and all thoroughly fitted for their work in a vocal sense.  They possess fine, and in some cases extraordinary, voices.  But that is only one part of their qualifications.  To their vocal and musical ability they add an intensity of dramatic feeling, and a poignant sense of any situation in which they may find themselves, that serve to colour every phrase of music they deliver.  It is not sufficient to call them singers; actors is a word that only partially describes them.  A new word is wanted to fit a one and indivisible art combined to both acting and singing.  Such enthusiastic work had an almost instantaneous success.  The very first scene, in which Ferrando and the male chorus took part - not a particularly moving one, as usually played - gave the audience a happy foretaste of what was to follow, and created in the audience an enthusiasm that continued to grow till the end came too soon.

'It must not be supposed, however, that the performance was not open to adverse criticism.  Very easily serious faults could be pointed out.  The singers had the defects of their qualities: an excessive enthusiasm and ebullience more than once resulted in forced notes and a loss of pitch.  The chorus was occasionally strident, and there were shortcomings in the orchestral work.  Still the performance as a whole was most spirited and spirit-stirring, and, as has already been said, should not be missed.

'The important part of Leonora was rendered by Signora Defral in a manner that could hardly be bettered.  Her voice is of beautiful quality, and she is complete mistress of it.  Her soft tones are delicious, and her bravura singing is easy and accurate.  Mdme Goretta Castellano was excellent as the revengeful and sorrow-laden gipsy Azucena.  She treated “Stride la Vampa” - a rather shallow and pretty melody - in a manner that gave it real tragic import.  “Si la stanchezza” (with Signor Barbato) somewhat failed in its effect, as towards the end of the opera the duettists’ voices were fatigued.  Of Signor Barbato, the tenor, it may be truly said that he is in possession of a voice that in some respects surpasses that of any tenor who has sung in Dundee since the late Joseph Maas rendered “Sound an Alarm.”  The power, and sometimes beauty, of his upper register is astounding.  No doubt he gives us too much of it sometimes; but that is a fault with which we can seldom charge tenors nowadays.  The Count de Luna of Signor Vail was in many respects admirable.  An excessive vibrato occasionally impaired his intonation.  In consequence “Il Balen” suffered a little at the final cadence.  Signor Vittori’s Ferrando demands a word of recognition, and the minor parts were competently played.

'In our advance notice it was said that the company claimed to stand or fall by the excellence of its principals.  The claim was no rash one.  It stated the case fairly, and, to judge from Il Trovatore, the company stands, and stands securely.


Dundee Courier & Argus:  Tuesday,  25 October 1910  (p6)

Italian Opera in Dundee - Il Trovatore

'It was a nice selection on the part of the management of the Cavaliere F Castellano’s Italian Grand Opera Company to choose Il Trovatore as the work with which to open the week’s engagement at Her Majesty’s.  Il Trovatore is, here at least, the most familiar example of the music of Giuseppe Verdi, founder of modern Italian opera.

'Probably few composers show greater differences between their different “periods” than Verdi, and although Othello and Falstaff, in the opinion of critics, far outshine the earlier Il Trovatore and Rigoletto, it is by these last two operas that the composer is most widely known and must generally popular.  Nor is the reason difficult to find.  In the earlier operas there is a wealth of melody, a glow of excitement, and a warmth of passion that go straight to the heart of the general public.

'It is in the expression of melody, of excitement, and of passion that the Castellano company excel, and, therefore, again the choice of Il Trovatore was a happy one.  The story - such as it is - of love and revenge is familiar to all opera-goers, and with the expressiveness of the acting, which would have been illuminating had it been merely pantomime, it was by no means difficult to follow it.  Each well-known musical number also formed a landmark, if such were needed, to show what progress was being made in the development of the tragedy.

'The audience was not so large by any means as it might have been.  Still, for a Monday night it was more than fair, and if we can judge from the enthusiasm elicited by last night’s performance the houses will be much bigger during the week.  Rarely, if ever, has there been such a furore of excitement as followed the performance of the famous “Miserere” scene.

'The soloists are unquestionably the feature of the Castellano Company.  The chorus and band are satisfactory, but they do not bulk largely in the general effect of the performance; it is the soloists that the discerning public will go to hear and to see.

'The solo singing is characterised by the utmost brilliance and power, and the acting of the soloists is full of passion and vigour.  There are no exceptions; every principal can sing like an artiste, and act like one too.

'First honours were unquestionably taken by Signora Defral, who took the all important role of Leonora.  She has a voice of first-class quality, excellent in range and volume, and her vocalisation is well-nigh perfect.  Her mezza voce singing is delicious, and both in solo and concerted work her performance was as artistic as it was popular.  The Aria “Tacea la Notte,” and the duets with Manrico and with the Count in the first scene of the third act were surpassingly fine, and the trio at the end of the first act brought down the house.

'The Manrico of the cast was Signor Barbato, who has the biggest tenor voice probably ever heard on the Dundee stage.  His style is eminently robust, and he is best when he is most robust in his singing.  His highest notes are his best, both in power and quality, and much of his music was sung with triumphant and overwhelming power.  The exquisite serenade, “Deserto sulla terra,” was delightfully sung, and the tenor part in the “Miserere” scene was also beautiful; but it was in the vigorous solo in the end of the third act and in the concerted music that Signor Barbato was at his best.  His Turiddu in Cavalleria and Canio in Pagliacci will be something worth going far to hear.

'Signor Vail, a baritone of fine, round quality, made a dignified and vocally splendid Count di Luna.  His “Il Balen” was beautifully sung, if not quite perfect in intonation, and Signor Vail’s acting was throughout splendid.

'Madame Goretta Castellano made a splendid Azucena, the most dramatic part in the whole opera.  She sings with admirable art, her phrasing being specially fine, and her lower register is remarkably mellow, round, and soft.  Her dramatic music was sung with intense feeling, and the familiar “Stride la Vampa” and the duets with Manrico in the second act, the touching “Giorni poveri,” and the tuneful “Si la Stanchezza” were all most effectively sung.

'Signor Wehils conducted carefully and with abundant familiarity with the score.

'To-night Verdi’s Rigoletto - the masterpiece of his earlier days - will be given, with Signora Alessandrovic as Gilda, Signor Romani as the Duke, and Signor Vail as the jester, Rigoletto.  A stirring performance is certain.  Signor Lietti will conduct.'


Dundee Ticket Prices:    Dress Circle 4s & 5s;   Orch Stalls   3s;   Upper Circle 2s 6d..

Performance Cast

Ferrando captain of Di Luna's guard

Signor Vittori (Oct 3, 17, 24)

Inez confidante of Leonora

Signora Cavezzano (Oct 17)

Leonora a Duchess, lady-in-waiting to the Princess of Aragon

Signora Defral (Oct 3, 17, 24)

Count di Luna a young noble of Aragon

Signor Vail (Oct 3, 17, 24)

Manrico a chieftain under the Prince of Biscay

Signor Barbato (Oct 3, 17, 24)

Azucena a Biscayan gypsy woman

Madame Goretta Castellano (Oct 3, 17, 24)

Old Gypsy

Signor Tero (Oct 17)


Signor Fragari (Oct 17)

Ruiz a soldier in Manrico's service

Signor Antonini (Oct 17)

Performance DatesTrovatore 1910

Map List

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

3 Oct, 19.30

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

17 Oct, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

24 Oct, 19.30

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