Opera Scotland

Carmen 1910Castellano Grand Italian Opera

Read more about the opera Carmen

Carmen was one of two French pieces in the Castellano repertoire on tour in Scotland, and played on Thursday evenings, with Faust following to end the visit on Saturday night. That these were performed in Italian translation was only just beginning to be unusual - it had been the standard form of presentation at Covent Garden, and also in performances by Mapleson's company. But the Italian version had not been heard in Scotland for some time, and never north of the central belt (where all performances had been in English rather than French).

A novel feature of the cast here is the appearance in the role of Micaëla of a soprano under the name 'Signora Licette'. This was the young (only just 18!) English soprano Miriam Licette who would have an illustrious career through to the thirties. After her Dundee performance, the Courier critic was enthusiastic to the point where management put her on as Marguerite in Faust on the Saturday. This would become an important role for her and one she would record under Beecham twenty years later.

Castellano had been taking his company round Europe and beyond it for over a decade, so it can hardly be surprising if some local musicians were sometimes picked up en route. Could the Signora Milli who went on in Dundee perhaps be a Miss Mills in disguise?

The cast is drawn from a programme in Aberdeen City Library, with adjustments from reviews in the Scotsman,  Dundee Advertiser and Courier & Argus.


The Edinburgh View

Scotsman: Thursday, 6 October 1910 (p6)

Carmen at the Theatre-Royal

'For well over twenty years Bizet's Carmen has held the stage as an opera suited for production in English.  It was one of the first successes by which Mr Carl Rosa persuaded the British people that the Italian language, with its exceptional vocal quality, was not necessary to the rendering of a brilliant music drama.  He secured English artists to fill the parts; and he elaborated the whole presentation by magnificent scenery, fine dressing, and enlarged chorus and orchestra.

'It follows that Signor Castellano's company, which relies mainly on the singing of its principals,  and not on any elaborate stage accoutrements,  might, by last night's performance, be adjudged inferior to some of the best productions of the opera that Edinburgh audiences have heard in English.  Neither the chorus, the orchestra, nor the general mise-en-scène was quite up to the standard  to which, after long years,  those who believe in English singers and English words have been accustomed.  But on the other hand there was the splendid vocalisation of the principals, rivalling the best that has been heard in the production of what is undoubtedly one of the greatest examples of ''grand opera.''

'Madame Castellano followed up the great success she won on the first visit of the company - reinforced by her fine performance as Azucena on Monday night - by a well-studied and impressive rendering of the part of Prosper Merimée's wayward but fascinating heroine.  The whole play of the piece is essentially intense; and among a host of distinguished Carmen's Madame Castellano may claim her place for intensity.

'Signor Vail, who has won golden opinions this week, had the usual encore for the ''Toreador'' song of Escamillo.  Signor Romani, as Don José, was, both as a singer and an actor, a fine representative of a passionful part.  Apart from the general quality of the presentation - and the minor parts were all in good hands - special attention should be drawn to the Michaela of Signora Licette.  Both in the opening scene and in the interview in the cave her singing was characterised by that simplicity and sweetness that in the drama are conceived to supply the foil to the passion of the lady of the title-röle,and that sometimes are not attained, because of the desire to make more of a minor part than it can carry.  Signora Licette has the showings of a singer who may yet go far in her art.

'There were defects in the orchestra; but Signor Wehils made the best of his materials,  and the vocalists did the rest.'


Dundee Reviews

Dundee Advertiser:  Friday, October 28, 1910    (p8)

Italian Opera - Bizet's Carmen

'It is questionable if the Castellano company were last night well advised in departing from the chief object of their existence, which is, as we understand, the giving of operas of the Italian school. Bizet's Carmen was, of course, delivered in the Italian tongue; but the story is taken from the French of Prosper Merimee and the composer was a Frenchman. It must not be supposed, however, that Carmen was a failure. Far from it; in many respects it was admirably performed. Still, the fact remains that, generally speaking, there was not the force and passion in the acting and singing that made so memorable the representations of Il Trovatore and Pagliacci. For one thing, Bizet's music is more subtle in construction and texture than the music of the Italian masters; and he was not, as most of the Castellano singers are, a whole-souled adherent of the cult of the final or semi-final high note. There was less opportunity, therefore, for theatrical effect, and in consequence the more popular parts of the house were less moved. There was much calling for praise, however, to which we should like briefly to draw attention.

'The title role was played by Mdme Goretta Castellano, who shed a somewhat fresh light on the character of the seductive gipsy girl.  As De Lussan plays the part, we have a personality presented that is overwhelming (on the stage) in its appeal to the masculine sex.  She takes hearts, as it were, by Storm.  Mdme Castellano's methods are of a more winning, and, we venture to think, a more natural, if less striking kind. Less flaunting and bizarre than the great actress named, she is in her own way equally effective.  In the opening scene with Don Jose, for instance, a scene sometimes played with sudden and offensive effrontery, she only displayed her true character by degrees.  She did not show her hand until she was sure of the game.  The voice of Mdme Castellano is a thing of beauty; her middle register is perfectly produced, and has a poetic charm inexpressible in prosy words.  The “Habanera,” sung rather slower than is customary, was well received, and the important music of the third act, including the card trio, received more than justice.

'Signora Licette made her first appearance here in the part of Micaëla. She is a young singer of some accomplishment and even greater promise. The simple and gentle peasant girl was presented to the life; and the music of the part, including the Aria in Act 3, was rendered with a voice of great purity and beauty.

'As Don José, Signor Barbato found less scope for his fine upper notes than usual this week, but he did not fail to avail himself of any chance that occurred.  The “Flower Song” was delivered with a fulness of tone with which it is seldom associated. Signor Barbato again proved himself a finished actor, the terrible and tragic closing scene proving very impressive.

'Signor Catini replaced Signor Vail in the character of Escamillo, and was moderately successful.  Possibly on account of our speciality, the east wind, the “Toreador’s Song” lost some of its effect.  Other characters were creditably represented.

'The stage grouping was better managed than it has hitherto been, the Smugglers’ Retreat in the mountains pleasing the eye.  Some of the chorus singing was spirited but the ladies’ voices are yet too penetrating.  Bizet’s lively instrumentation was nicely played by the orchestra under Signor Wehils, who secured a finished interpretation of the soft Prelude to Act 3.

'It is pleasant to know that there is to be a large house for Rossini’s Barber of Seville to-night.'


Dundee Courier & Argus:  Friday, October 28, 1910   p4

Italian Opera in Dundee - Carmen

'Departing from the Italian school of opera, the Castellano company last night produced Bizet’s Carmen - in Italian, of course - at Her Majesty’s Theatre.

'The audience was disappointingly small, and it looks as if grand opera - in Italian at least - is at a discount in Dundee.  This is a pity, for the operatic fare presented to us this week is the real thing - opera on the scale and in the style that it is played in Italy, the home of opera by many companies every evening.  To hear such principals as those of the Castellano company is not only a joy; it is also an education.

'It cannot truthfully be said that the company showed to such advantage in Carmen as it did in the Italian operas which preceded it.  The differences are perhaps not easy to state, but there are differences between operas of the Italian and all other schools, not only in music, but in dramatic feeling and construction.  The Italian company naturally is better suited by temperament to operas of their own country.

'The audience was disappointed when Signor Catini appeared as Escamillo instead of Signor Vail, who was billed for the part, and who is one of the most popular and one of the best members of the company.  Signor Vail last night was suffering from slight cold, and he preferred to rest in preparation for his great performance as Figaro to-morrow evening.

'The successes in Carmen were scored by Signora Licette, a new soprano, as Micaëla, and Signor Barbato, the big tenor, as Don José.

'Signora Licette had in Micaëla the one pure, attractive part in the opera.  Her acting lacked the ease and spontaneity of some of her associates, but her singing was truly delightful.  Her voice is very sweet and notably fresh, and the Letter Song and the duet with Don José which follows it were sung with really delicious grace and fragrance.  Her big Recitative and Aria in the third act, too, were sung with great dramatic point and fervour.

'Signor Barbato made a magnificent Don José.  It is a fine acting part, and Signor Barbato is a fine actor as well as a splendid singer.  His treatment of the beautiful Flower Song was full of charm, both of voice and expression, but it is in more strenuous music that the Signor is at his best.  In the duet with Micaëla, in the scene with Escamillo, and notably in the final scene, his singing and acting were superbly dramatic.

'Signor Catini’s Escamillo was a little disappointing, especially in the Toreador’s Song, into which some new effects were introduced, but which missed its usual encore.  He was better later in the opera.

'Madame Goretta Castellano made a most interesting Carmen, and she sang admirably, except perhaps, towards the end of the second act.  Her idea of Carmen is less vicious than some we have seen.  Her Carmen is merely a flirt, nothing worse.  Madame Goretta Castellano was at her best in the “Habanera,” in the early scenes with Don José, and in the finale.

'Signora Milli and Signora Rocco, as Frasquita and Mercédès, sang pleasantly, and Signor Quintina doubled very effectively the parts of Il Dancairo and Zuniga.

'The chorus was not at its best, but the band played well under Signor Wehils’ inspiring baton.

'To-night Rossini’s Il Barbiere di Siviglia, one of the two greatest comic operas ever written, will be played for the first time in Dundee for forty years.  Signora Alessandrovic will appear as Rosina - Madame Patti’s favourite part - Signor Vail will be the Figaro, Signor Barterra the Count Almaviva, Signor Quintina the Dr Bartolo, and Signor Vittori the Don Basilio.  This is the only comic opera of the week, and ought to draw a good house.'

Performance Cast

Moralès a corporal of dragoons

Signor Fragari (Oct 20)

Micaëla a peasant girl

Miriam Licette (Oct 5, 20, 27)

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Signor Romani (Oct 5)

Signor Barbato (Oct 20, 27)

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Signor Quintina (Oct 20, 27)

Carmen a gypsy

Madame Goretta Castellano (Oct 5, 20, 27)

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Signora Cavezzano (Oct 20)

Signora Milli (Oct 27)

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Signora Rocco (Oct 20, 27)

Escamillo a toreador

Signor Vail (Oct 5)

Signor Catini (Oct 20, 27)

Dancaïre a smuggler

Signor Quintina (Oct 20, 27)

Remendado a smuggler

Signor Barterra (Oct 20)

Performance DatesCarmen 1910

Map List

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

5 Oct, 19.30

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

20 Oct, 19.30

Her Majesty's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

27 Oct, 19.30

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