Opera Scotland

Siegfried 1910Denhof Opera Company

Read more about the opera Siegfried

The overall quality of the Denhof enterprise seems quite remarkable, with the guiding hand of Charles Hedmondt directing the staging, and the current conductor of the Bayreuth Ring controlling the augmented forces of the Scottish Orchestra.

The title role was taken by Francis Maclennan, a Scottish tenor who had a notable career in major German houses. Presumably this ended with the outbreak of war.  Certainly his wife, the soprano Florence Easton, transferred her career from Germany to the USA.


An Edinburgh Review

Scotsman:  Friday, 4 March 1910 (p7)

Wagner's 'Ring' in Edinburgh - Third Drama - Siegfried

After the not unwelcome respite afforded by Bizet's Carmen, that section of the educated musical public of Scotland who had arranged to enjoy the music of Wagner re-assembled in the King's Theatre last night.  As on Monday and Tuesday there was again a brilliant and crowded attendance.  The artistic success of Tuesday's performance, which has beenuniversally acknowledged, doubtless helped to draw some people who, without desiring to hear the whole tetralogy performed in extenso, were prepared to submit themselves to a temporary experience of the higher music-drama.  

'The performance was again on a plane that was entirely creditable to all engaged.  It evoked quite remarkable enthusiasm.  It is not necessary here to do more than recapitulate the points of the story that has already been told.  Siegfried is the fearless hero, the son of Siegmund and Sieglinde.  A foundling, he is brought up in the forest by Mime, the crafty dward, who knows the whole story of the Ring, and who hopes to utilise Siegfried in order to get back the charmed talisman, and to secure for himself the world-power.  The drama as Wagner wrote it is very long.  Wagner took himself seriously, and expected other people to do the same.  Last night's performance began at 6.30pm, and finished at about a quarter of an hour before midnight.  There were, however, two intervals - one sufficing for supper, and the other a shorter one.

'It was necessarily a heavy night for those concerned in the production.  Mr Balling, the conductor, is obviously a man of the character and energy of his patron, Dr Hans Richter  He is indefatigable.  He pulls out of the orchestra and singers the best that is in them, and his personality dominates the performance.  Mr Verbrugghen, too, now that the question of extra rehearsals is no longer in argument, has provided a surprise to the foreign conductor in the efficiency of the Scottish Orchestra, which forms the nucleus of the band.  To the success of so large an undertaking every department must contribute, , and much of the smoothness and success  of the performance may fairly be attributed to Mr Eugene Bertram, the general manager, and Mr  Hedmondt, who, himself an enthusiastic Wagnerian, is superintending the stage direction.  These are the people the audience are apt to ignore in their approbation of the principal singers.  But last night the singers were entitled to special attention.

'It was a splendid cast, and all the singers worked for an ideal performance.  Only eight characters appear;  for Wagner, suo more, dispensed with a chorus - or, it should perhaps be said, enbodied the functions of the operatic chorus in the orchestration.  Mr Francis Maclennan was the Siegfried, and he achieved a noteworthy success.  It is not too much to say that by his vivid interpretation of the part of Siegfried, as strong vocally as it was dramatically, Mr Maclennan has placed himself at a bound, as it were, in the forefront of British tenors.  It is worthy of note that the three first names in the programme, Mr Maclennan as Siegfried, Mr Sydney Russell as Mime, and Mr Frederic Austin as Wotan,  or the Wanderer, were all playing their parts for the first time.  Coming new to the work, they made up in intelligence and enthusiasm for what might have been lacking owing to inexperience.

'Mr Maclennan had, of course, the hardest work to do, for Siegfried is seldom off the stage.  His fine tenor voice, which has an effective vibrato touch that makes it easy for him to suggest the emotionalism of an emotional part, was resonant to the end; the great love duet with Brünnhilde in the last act found the male vocalist as strong in tone and dramatic quality as at the very outset.  In association with Madame Agnes Nicholls, he gave to the music that finish and beauty that made the culminating love duet of Siegfried as great as the opening love scene in The Valkyrie.  Mr Maclennan is undoubtedly a great dramatic tenor; even in his somewhat dull and protracted  duologue with Mime, his clear articulation and sound declamatory style were noteworthy.  The forging of the sword was over-elaborated by Wagner, and his interpreters have to suffer.  And the ''Waldweben'' music, in which the bird part was clearly and sweetly vocalised by Miss Florence Easton, was, thanks to a most sympathetic orchestral commentary by Mr Balling, charming in the extreme.

''Madame Agnes Nicholls rose to a fine pitch of dramatic  intensity in the part of Brünnhilde.  She is a fine artist, whose voice and intelligence may always be relied upon for oratorio.  Those who doubted her aptitude for stage work must have been struck by the finished and powerful rendering of her share in the final share of Siegfried last night.

'After these two characters the principals are Mime the dwarf,  and Wotan, or the Wanderer.  Mr Frederic Austin is too good a musician - he is more than a mere vocalist - not to know that the long dissertations which Wagner has allotted to Wotan are to the audience somewhat wearying, and are unnecessary to the progress of the plot.  All the more credit to him that he maintains the Wagnerian tradition by sustaining a heavy part at all times so as to make it interesting.

'The Mime of Mr Sydney Russell was also excellent.  It is a mockery part;  but under the sardonic jibes and sneers, admirably vocalised and articulated, it was easy to note a really fine tenor voice, of which more should yet be heard in more grateful operatic parts.

'The staging was again excellent;  and when shortly after the opening, the lights of the orchestra were temporarily extinguished through a fuse, Mr Balling was so promptly reinforced by the turning up of the lights in the auditorium that the work continued without a break.  The difficulties of the fire-scene, where Siegfried breaks through the barrier to wake Brünnhilde with a kiss, were admirably managed.'

Performance Cast

Mime a Nibelung, Siegfried's fosterer

Sydney Russell

Siegfried son of Siegmund and Sieglinde

Francis Maclennan

Wanderer Wotan in disguise

Frederic Austin

Alberich a Nibelung

Thomas Meux

Fafner disguised as a dragon

Francis Harford


Caroline Hatchard

Erda mother of the Norns and Valkyries

Edna Thornton

Brünnhilde now a mortal

Agnes Nicholls

Performance DatesSiegfried 1910

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Mar, 18.30 10 Mar, 18.30

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