Opera Scotland

Gianni Schicchi 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Gianni Schicchi

Playing Puccini's excellent little comedy before Pagliacci, as the programme order indicates, seems an odd idea, but it may have worked. There can be little doubt that a significant number of company principals, usually tied to serious and even tragic roles, must have enjoyed acting in something lighter.  Also, the audience will have been largely familiar with the melodrama, while the comic masterpiece was a novelty.

The double bill was given a single performance in Glasgow, followed by a second one in Edinburgh two weeks later.

The complete cast for 26 October is taken from a programme in the Edinburgh Room of Edinburgh City Library. Only three of the performers on 12 October are mentioned in the Herald review, though it specifies that 'Both operas were conducted by Mr Aylmer Buesst'.


The Glasgow Review

The Glasgow Herald wrote up the double bill on Wednesday, 13 October (p9):

'Puccini and Leoncavallo were the composers in an Italian double bill presented by the British National Opera Company last evening in the Theatre Royal Glasgow. Chronological order would have placed Gianni Schicchi after Pagliacci, and, although chronology does not matter in this case, there is something to be said for finishing a programme such as was offered last evening on the lighter note supplied by Puccini in his setting of the famous old story rather than on the melodramatic yelloe-press-like note furnished, albeit most tunefully, and with a fine set of dramatic values, in Pagliacci.

'The operatic art, especially in the Italian department as we know it, has need of a few more operas of the type of Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, a work that is interesting dramatically and musically, cleverly worked out and highly effective in all respects. 

But it is with the rare quality of its humour that it makes its greatest appeal, and that humour is found in the music as well as in the situation and the ''book''. Gianni Schicchi is, in a word, a very complete little opera, and we must be grateful to the capricious goddess who presides over the fate of new operas for having kindly allowed this one to establish itself with the public.

'Mr William Michael appeared in the name part with a considerable measure of success. He is an artist of great resource, and has already established himself as a very versatile member of the Company, who can be trusted to get into close touch with most types of character. He offered last night a great deal of Schicchi but not quite all of him. Schicchi's personality should dominate the scene from the moment of his entrance. He is really a strong man, but so far is he from being a silent one that every word he utters must have the whole force of his personality behind it. Some of what Mr Michael had to say was said last evening in too light and airy a fashion, and some of what he had to do was done in a spirit that was too near to light comedy, as when he was being dressed for bed and was promising to each in turn the same coveted portions of the estate. Much of his performance was very good, and if he will enlarge his conception and give more consideration to the satirical quality of the character and of the whole atmosphere of the play he will greatly strengthen the appeal of his impersonation.

'The relatives of the deceased were all very well presented. and the elaborate ensembles which fall to them were crisply and spontaneously done.

Mr Tudor Davies was delightfully youthful as Rinuccio, and he found an attractive sweetheart in the Lauretta of Miss Marjorie Parry. The two attendants on the notary were well characterised, but were made up so that they were very nearly grotesque. The tendency to underline the humour in such little matters is one to be avoided.'


Edinburgh Opinion

The Scotsman of Wednesday, 27 October (p8) reviewed the previous evening's show:

There are few operatic works so compact of wit and charm as Puccini's Gianni Schicchi, and a special debt of gratitude is due to the British National Opera Company for including it in the repertory of the present season at the King's Theatre.  Some day, perhaps, it may be possible to hear its companion operas also - Il Tabarro and Suor Angelica, the three works being designed for one eveniing's entertainment. Meantime, there is no small satisfaction in having Gianni Schicchi. The story of the grasping relatives of a dead man, who are outwitted by a clever but good-hearted rogue, is set to music that is both beautiful and full of drollery, for Puccini pokes fun at human nature in a good-humoured way, even appearing to scoff lightly at his own musical characteristics

'As Gianni Schicchi, Mr Herbert Langley, who created the rôle in this country, last night replaced Mr William Michael, still indisposed, and once more portrayed the humours of the character with a fine zest.  Mr Tudor Davies was again the Rinuccio, singing delightfully, and entering whole-heartedly into the fun of the performance. Miss Constance Willis, as the deaf old aunt of Rinuccio, Zita, was admirable in her singing and acting, and Miss Marjorie Parry was engaging as Lauretta, the song in which she cajoles her father being delightfully rendered.

'Of the other members of the cast Mr Sydney Russell as the physician, Philip Bertram as the notary, and Messrs Parry Jones, Bernard Ross, William Anderson, and Martin Quinn, and the Misses Eda Bennie, Barbara Nelson, and May Blyth, as the relatives of the dead man, it may be said that they all rose admirably to the demands of a work which requires good acting and the utmost deftness in fitting in the individual parts in a very complicated musical structure.  Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted, and shared in the enthusiastic recalls at the close of a remarkably fine and exhilarating performance.'


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 & Pagliacci;  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

Zita a cousin of Buoso, aged sixty

Constance Willis (Oct 26)

Rinuccio Zita's nephew, aged twenty-four

Tudor Davies (Oct 12, 26)

Gherardo Buoso's nephew, aged forty

Parry Jones (Oct 26)

Nella Gherardo's wife, aged thirty-four

Eda Bennie (Oct 26)

Gherardino Gherardo's son, aged seven

Barbara Nelson (Oct 26)

Betto di Signa a cousin, age unknown

Bernard Ross (Oct 26)

Simone a cousin, aged seventy

William Anderson (Oct 26)

Marco Betto's son, aged forty-five

Martin Quinn (Oct 26)

La Ciesca Marco's wife, aged thirty-eight

May Blyth (Oct 26)

Gianni Schicchi aged fifty-one

William Michael (Oct 12)

Herbert Langley (Oct 26)

Lauretta Schicchi's daughter, aged twenty-one

Marjorie Parry (Oct 12, 26)

Maestro Spinelloccio a doctor

Sydney Russell (Oct 26)

Ser Amantio di Nicolao a notary

Philip Bertram (Oct 26)

Pinellino a cobbler

Norman Roe (Oct 26)

Guccio a dyer

Frank Le Pla (Oct 26)

Performance DatesGianni Schicchi 1926

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

12 Oct, 19.30

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

26 Oct, 19.30

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