Opera Scotland

Falstaff 1929Covent Garden Opera

Read more about the opera Falstaff

By the autumn of 1929 the transformation of the insolvent BNOC into a new Covent Garden Opera had taken place, with touring continuing immediately. This Falstaff is almost identical to the cast that the previous company had brought north in 1927. The main change was the arrival of the deep-toned contralto and expert comic Gladys Parr as Quickly, allowing Constance Willis to switch to Meg in place of Gladys Ancrum, who had moved on.


Cast details for Friday, 25 October are from a programme in Edinburgh City Library.  Additional data for the same performance comes from the Scotsman review of Saturday 26 October (p12):

'For nothing, possibly, in connection with the present season of Covent Garden Opera at the King's Theatre is there greater cause for gratitude than the performance last night of Verdi's Falstaff.  Only three operas are being repeated during the present visit of the Covent Garden organisation, and it will doubtless be a source of satisfaction to many that Falstaff is of the number, for it is a work to hear many times.

'Actually, last night was only the fourth occasion on which it had been heard here.  It was revived by the British National Opera Company last year, with the same conductor and very much the same cast as last night.  Before that it had not been heard in Edinburgh since Sir Thomas Beecham gave two performances of the work about nine years earlier.

'When Verdi astonished the world with the two  operas of his wonderful old age,  Othello and Falstaff,  a great deal was made of the transition of the old Verdi to the new,  with the rather unfortunate implication that the new Verdi was not to be so easily understood as the old.  It is a mistaken impression.  The Verdi of Othello and of Falstaff is every whit as clear as the Verdi of Il trovatore.  There is, of course, much more detail in the later works, but to a reasonably attentive ear it should present no difficulty.  Falstaff is a compact of humour as Die Meistersinger,  humour which is to be found alike in the voice parts and in the orchestra, and which is never obscure.

'Last night, under Mr Barbirolli's direction, there was a performance of the opera, carried through at an exhilarating pace,, which told at every point of thorough rehearsal.  Where delicacy of execution was called for,  the tone of the orchestra was subdued to almost miniature proportions, but the voices remained steady and true.

'It was an splendid cast.  Mr Arthur Fear's Falstaff had a richmaturity, astonishing in one who is still  young in musical and dramatic experience.  The Mrs Ford and Mrs Page of the Misses Marjorie Parry and Constance Willis respectively were vocally charming and fine pieces of comedy, and Miss Gladys Parr's Dame Quickly was in the true spirit of the sly drollery of the rôle.

'Miss Doris Lemon and Mr Heddle Nash made a romantic pair of young lovers;  Mr Percy Heming's Ford was jealous and suspicious without being too violent about it;  Messrs Frederick Davies and Bernard Ross as Bardolph and Pistol made fine contrasting types of rascaldom;  and the Doctor Caius of Mr Octave Dua was grotesque without being unduly farcical.

'It was, indeed, one of the features of the performance that it preserved the atmosphere of comedy as distinguished from farce.  The various ensemble movements were given with great neatness,  and the wonderful fugue in the last scene was admirably done.  For the orchestra there could scarcely be too great praise.  The mounting was very artistic.'  

Performance Cast

Sir John Falstaff a knight

Arthur Fear (Oct 25)

Pistola Pistol, a follower of Falstaff

Bernard Ross (Oct 25)

Bardolfo Bardolph, a follower of Falstaff

Frederick Davies Oct 25)

Caius Dr Caius, a Frenchman

Octave Dua (Oct 25)

Meg Mistress Page

Constance Willis (Oct 25)

Alice Mistress Alice Ford, wife of Ford

Marjorie Parry (Oct 25)

Nannetta daughter of the Fords

Doris Lemon (Oct 25)

Quickly Mistress Quickly, a confidante of Alice and Meg

Gladys Parr (Oct 25)

Ford a merchant of Windsor

Percy Heming (Oct 25)

Fenton a young gentleman

Heddle Nash (Oct 25)

Robin Falstaff's page

Barbara Nelson (Oct 25)

Performance DatesFalstaff 1929

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

3 Oct, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 Oct, 19.15

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

25 Oct, 19.30 31 Oct, 19.30

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