Opera Scotland

Wally 1920O'Mara Grand Opera Company

Read more about the opera Wally

The O'Mara company made two visits to Scotland in 1920, and Aberdeen received them for a fortnight in the spring and a further one in the autumn. The length of both these visits may have been due to the much-lamented closure of Her Majesty's Theatre in Dundee in 1919. It had been a regular date for O'Mara during the war years, but had just been acquired, in rather controversial fashion, by a London-based cinema chain. It would be a couple of years before the big Dundee variety house, the King's, was made available for opera. The people of the north were the gainers.

The Aberdeen schedules were:

Week commencing 19 April: Mon Bohème; Tue Tannhäuser; Wed Lily of Killarney; Thu Madam Butterfly; Fri Marriage of Figaro; Sat mat Traviata; Sat eve Faust.

Week commencing 26 April: Mon Samson and Delilah; Tue Un ballo in maschera; Wed Bohemian Girl; Thu Wally; Fri Manon Lescaut; Sat mat Faust; Sat eve Trovatore.

Week commencing 22 November: Mon Cav & Pag; Tue Bohème; Wed Maritana; Thu Faust; Fri Romeo and Juliet; Sat mat Rigoletto; Sat eve Tannhäuser.

Week commencing 29 November: Mon Lohengrin; Tue Samson and Delilah; Wed Puritan's Daughter; Thu Trovatore; Fri Seraglio; Sat mat Madam Butterfly; Sat eve Lily of Killarney.

This repertoire contains many of the standard favourites of the day - perhaps Carmen is the only obvious omission. There are several distinct novelties - not just Verdi (Un ballo in maschera), Gounod (Romeo and Juliet) or Puccini (Manon Lescaut) but also Catalani (La Wally) and even Balfe (The Puritan's Daughter). The fact that the little-known Mozart works, Figaro and Seraglio, were both scheduled for a Friday implies that the local orchestral players would need some extra rehearsals during the week.

Given the rapidity with which most successful Italian operas of the late nineteenth century were introduced to Britain, it seems odd that Catalani's masterpiece should have taken so long. It was the O'Mara company that staged it first, in Manchester in 1919, and they brought it to Scotland a few weeks later, for Glasgow audiences. People on the east coast had to wait until the following year, however.

Timings are given in the programme for the four acts of 35, 35, 35 and 15 minutes, three intervals of 10, 10 and 15. Total expected duration was 2 hours and 35 minutes.

The cast is from a programme in Aberdeen City Library, with the four main roles (Wally, Hagenbach, Gellner and Stromminger) confirmed in a review in the Edinburgh Evening News. There is also a programme archived in Edinburgh Central library for Friday 28 May 1920, giving an identical cast to that in Aberdeen 

Performance Cast

Wally daughter of Stromminger - 'the Vulture Maiden'

Florence Morden

Stromminger a wealthy Tyrolean

John C Browner

Afra an innkeeper

Miss Vernon

Walter a strolling zither player

Eveline Birks

Giuseppe Hagenbach of Sölden

John Pegg

Vincenzo Gellner of Hochstoff

John Olivere

Old Soldier

Joseph Griffin

Performance DatesWally 1920

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

29 Apr, 19.30

Royal Lyceum Theatre | Edinburgh

28 May, 19.30

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