Opera Scotland

Lucia di Lammermoor 1846Mr Calcraft's Italian Opera Company

Read more about the opera Lucia di Lammermoor

A brief season of Italian Opera was announced in the Glasgow Herald of Monday 7 September 1846.   The leader of this enterprise was Mr Calcraft, Proprietor of the Theatre Royal, Dublin, and the Orchestra and Chorus were to be brought in from that theatre.  The Company was to include some 'distinguished and first-rate Artistes from Her Majesty's Theatre in London' - Madame Castellan, Signora Corbari, Signor Marras, Signor Ciabatta and Signor Fornasari.   Of rather less prominence in the publicity are the Conductor (Signor Orsini), Leader (Mr Levey) and Prompter (Signor Salabert).  On the subject of the nowadays standard director or stage manager the newspaper is silent.

The visit developed interestingly, taking advantage of the existence of a new railway linking Glasgow to Edinburgh.  As was standard practice, the company brought no scenery, relying on the ability of well-equipped theatres to provide acceptable visual enhancements from stock.   The canvas backdrop of a woodland scene appropriate for Lucy's first appearance will have been familiar to audiences from previous exposures in a variety of entertainments from Rob Roy to Macbeth.

Soloists, chorus and orchestra, with all their hampers of costumes and instruments, were able to commute between the two cities.   It must be said that this bold experiment, which must still have been a logistical nightmare, does not appear to have been repeated.   In future, more sensibly, when both cities were to be included, each would get a complete unbroken visit.    

Glasgow saw six opera performances at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, and Edinburgh five, at the Theatre Royal,  Shakespeare Square (at the top of Leith Walk).   The sixth event in Edinburgh was a concert of operatic excerpts in the new Music Hall on George Street on Sunday afternoon.  (For details of the concert see the Puritani note).  The repertoire consisted of three operas by Bellini (La sonnambula,  Norma,  I puritani) and two by Donizetti (Lucia di Lammermoor,  Belisario).  The last pair were receiving their Scottish premieres, and Belisario, an excellent work that has enjoyed some recent revivals, has not been seen here since.   The other four works remained popular for many decades, and are now accepted as elements of the standard repertoire.

The company duly sailed from Dublin, and the visit opened in Glasgow on 17 September with Lucia.   After the following evening's Puritani the performers travelled to Edinburgh, repeating Lucia on the 19th, followed by Sonnambula on 21st and Belisario on 22nd.   After a further performance of Sonnambula in Glasgow on Wednesday 23rd, the company moved east once more, with Puritani on the 24th and a solitary concert of operatic extracts (introducing several by Verdi) at a Friday matinee in the new Music Hall.   The final Edinburgh evening was Norma on Saturday 26th.   The Scottish visit ended with three performances in Glasgow on Monday,  Tuesday and  Thursday, of  Norma,  Belisario and  Puritani.   They sailed on Friday, 2 October, to return to Dublin.

Of the company, reports are generally favourable.  The Edinburgh Mercury is certainly enthusiastic about the prima donna.  'The lady possesses a soprano voice of fine quality and great compass, her lower and middle chords being of peculiarly fine texture.   Add to this, beauty of countenance, a graceful person, animated, but perfectly lady-like action, and it will be seen that she proved an admirable representative of the beautiful but unfortunate heroine.'   Even allowing for the great enthusiasm of the audience and the fact that the music must have been subjected to 'standard' cuts,  it does seem surprising that she repeated at least some of the mad scene.

The same newspaper is perhaps less enthusiastic about the costumes brought in on the boat from Dublin (though even recent continental designers have made similar errors when coping with not just Lucia, but even Macbeth).   'The dresses were handsome, but incongruous.   Our southern neighbours seem to think that the Highlands begin just across Berwick Bridge, and consequently they dress the denizens of the Lammermoor Hills in kilts and philabegs; or, what is still more absurd, they put an unfortunate gentleman in case legs during the first act, and inclose his nether extremities with velvet unmentionables for the remainder of his (theatrical) existence.   These are small matters, however - the costumes are handsome and becoming, which is the main point.'

Performance Cast

Enrico Lord Henry Ashton

Luciano Fornasari

Lucia Lucy Ashton, Henry's Sister

Jeanne Anaïs Castellan

Edgardo Edgar, the Master of Ravenswood

Giacinto Marras

Raimondo Bide the Bent, the Ashtons' chaplain

Signor Ciabatta

Production Cast


Signor Orsini

Performance DatesLucia di Lammermoor 1846

Map List

Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Sep, 20.00

Theatre Royal, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

19 Sep, 20.00

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