Opera Scotland

Otello 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Otello

This was the second tour by BNOC to include Otello, made possible by the availability, as in 1923, of a suitable heroic tenor, in Frank Mullings, not to mention a rare appearance by Miriam Licette and the sterling baritone Herbert Langley as Iago. But in a mini-festival of Verdi they also gave Rigoletto and Aïda.

Cast details for 20 October are from a programme in the Edinburgh Room collection, Edinburgh City Library.


Edinburgh Review of Glasgow Performance

The Scotsman travelled to Glasgow and commented on Wednesday, 6 October (p8):

'A splendid rendering of Verdi's Othello was given by the British National Opera Company last night in Glasgow Theatre-Royal to alarge and delighted audience.  Not the least enjoyable part of the evening's entertainment was the conducting of Mr Aylmer Buesst, who showed rare taste in his treatment of the opera.

'There is abundant opportunity for the expression of sentiment and passion, and with all the power at their disposal the principals invested their characters with vitality and feeling. The contrasting figures were effectively presented but never overdone, and the few flaws which might raise comment from the fastidious were far outweighed in the general excellence of the production.  The scenery was appropriate and attractive.

'In Mr Frank Mullings the splendour and dignity of the deceived Moor were portrayed with convincing poignancy; and Desdemona was faithfully interpreted by Miss Miriam Licette.  The scheming and resourceful characteristics of Iago were well delineated by Mr Harold Williams, whose fine baritone voice was heard to advantage.  Mr Parry Jones made Cassio a very appealing figure of the dishonoured friend, and Miss Constance Willis's Emilia was invested with a fine distinction.


And in Edinburgh itself

The Scotsman of Thursday, 21 October (p6) reviewed the midweek matinee (Les Petits Riens followed by Hansel and Gretel) before continuing to the evening's Otello:

'Verdi's Othello is one of the trump cards of the British National Opera Company.  Last night, under the direction of Mr Aylmer Buesst, it seemed to be given with even more than the customary impressiveness and poignant emotional appeal.  There was a magnificent cast, with Mr Frank Mullings as Othello, Miss Miriam Licette as Desdemona, Mr Herbert Langley as Iago, Mr Frederick Davies as Cassio, and Miss Muriel Brunskill as Emilia.

Mr Mullings's Othello is one of the great things, perhaps the greatest thing, in British opera today.  Vocally and dramatically, his portrayal last night of a tortured, generous, jealous soul was wonderful.  The Desdemona of Miss Licette had a freshness and charm which provided an admirable foil to the sombre passion of Othello.  There was a beautiful simplicity in her singing of the prayer and the ''Willow Song'' in the last act.

'Mr Herbert Langley's Iago is a fine study, and the ''Credo'' was given with a superb force, although the sudden semi-hysterical outburst at the close, rather more in the manner of the explosive Canio in Pagliacci than of the sinister, secretive Iago, was a little out of the picture.  The Cassio of Mr Frederick Davies was very good;  Mr Philip Bertram was impressive as Lodovico, and there was a graciously sympathetic quality in Miss Muriel Brunskill's Emilia.

'The choral work in the opening scene and in the pretty episode in the second act, where the Cypriotes bring gifts to Desdemona, was very well done, while the orchestra throughout was eminently satisfactory.'


BNOC in Scotland 1926

The company spent three weeks in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh - 1927 would see them venturing further north.  Wagner and Puccini led the field, with four operas each.  There were a total of four works by three composers of the French school.  Verdi was represented by one middle-period and two late masterpieces.  Notably there were two recently composed British works - something BNOC would never achieve again.

The 20 operas performed in Scotland on this tour were:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Wagner (Tannhäuser Tristan and IsoldeMastersingers,  Parsifal);  Verdi (Rigoletto,  Aïda,  Otello);  Gounod (Faust,  Romeo and Juliet);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème ToscaMadam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Bryson (Leper's Flute).


The performance schedule was as follows:

Glasgow, w/c 27 September:  Mon 27  Aïda;  Tue 28  Carmen;  Wed 29 m Faust;  Wed 29 e Madam Butterfly;  Thu 30  Parsifal;  Fri Oct 01  Tosca;  Sat 02 m  Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 02 e  Tales of Hoffmann.

Glasgow, w/c 04 October:  Mon 04 Romeo and Juliet;  Tue 05 Otello;  Wed 06 m  No Perf;  Wed 06 e Bohème;  Thu 07 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 08 Mastersingers;  Sat 09 m Aïda;  Sat 09 e Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 11 October:  Mon 11 Parsifal;  Tue 12  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci; Wed 13 m Romeo and Juliet;  Wed 13 e Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 14  Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 15 Leper's Flute;  Sat 16 m Madam Butterfly;  Sat 16 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 18 October:  Mon 18 Romeo and Juliet;  Tue 19 Leper's Flute;  Wed 20 m Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 20 e  Otello;  Thu 21  Parsifal;  Fri 22  Aïda;  Sat 23 m Hugh the Drover;  Sat 23 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 25 October:  Mon 25 Rigoletto;  Tue 26 Gianni Schicchi & Palliaci;  Wed 27 m Madam Butterfly;  Wed 27 e Tosca;  Thu 28 Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 29 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 30 m Parsifal;  Sat 30 e Bohème.

Performance Cast

Montano predecessor of Otello in Cyprus

Bernard Ross (Oct 20)

Cassio Otello's lieutenant

Parry Jones (Oct 05)

Frederick Davies (Oct 20)

Iago Otello's ensign

Harold Williams (Oct 05)

Herbert Langley (Oct 20)

Roderigo a Venetian gentleman

Liddell Peddieson (Oct 20)

Otello a Moorish general, Venetian Governor of Cyprus

Frank Mullings (Oct 05, 20)

Desdemona Otello's wife

Miriam Licette (Oct 05, 20)

Emilia Iago's wife and Desdemona's companion

Constance Willis (Oct 05)

Muriel Brunskill (Oct 20)


Ralph Humble (Oct 20)

Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic

Philip Bertram (Oct 20)

Performance DatesOtello 1926

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

5 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

20 Oct, 19.00

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