Opera Scotland

Norma 1846Mr Calcraft's Italian Opera Company

Read more about the opera Norma

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).

The visit developed more interestingly, taking advantage of the existence of a 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.   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 by other companies.   In future, more sensibly, when both cities were to be included, each would get a complete unbroken visit.

The company duly sailed from Dublin, and the visit opened in Glasgow on 17 September with Lucia di Lammermoor.   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.

The only definite aspect of casting for Norma is in the advert in the Caledonian Mercury of 24 September, where the performance is stated to be the final night of the tour (at least of the Edinburgh element) and to be Madame Castellan's benefit.

It seems reasonable to assume the presence of Marras and Corbari in the cast. However the casting of Oroveso is more problematic, since Ciabatta might have been expected to sing it, except for the fact that Fornasari previously sang a similar bass role in La sonnambula.

These are, so far, the earliest performances of Norma that we have traced in Scotland.  However it reached London very quickly (1833) and was first given in Dublin on 31 August 1841.

Glasgow saw six opera performances at the Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, and Edinburgh five, at the Theatre Royal.  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 sonnambulaNorma, I puritani) and two by Donizetti (Lucia di LammermoorBelisario).  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.

Performance Cast

Pollione Roman Pro-consul in Gaul

Giacinto Marras

Norma High Priestess of the druid temple

Jeanne Anaïs Castellan

Adalgisa a virgin of the temple

Signora Corbari

Production Cast


Signor Orsini

Performance DatesNorma 1846

Map List

Theatre Royal, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

26 Sep, 20.00

Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow | Glasgow

28 Oct, 20.00

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