Opera Scotland

Orphée aux Enfers 1961Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Orpheus in the Underworld

Wendy Toye's hugely energetic production opened at Sadler's Wells Theatre on 17 May 1960 and stayed in the company's repertoire for the best part of two decades. It initiated an exploration of Offenbach's leading comic works, four of which would be seen in the sixties, the others being La belle Hélène, La vie parisienne and Bluebeard.

Sets and costumes by Malcolm Pride were bright and cheerful, to put it mildly. The packed tube train in the first act finale as the company all set off for Hades was typical of the production's high spirits. Its brash vulgarity remained hugely enjoyable for audiences, though the seemingly interminable encores of the infernal galop (or Can-Can) in the final Hades scene must surely have become a bit wearing.

Many of the chorus were given identifiable little cameos which they would repeat year after year. Eric Shilling's Jupiter also remained a fixture at most performances. The Australian tenor Jon Weaving spent the next decade in Germany, and when he returned he was singing the big Wagner roles.

The part of Euridice, a none-too-bright platinum blonde trollop in a mini-skirt, remained attractive for several sopranos following Iris Kells, and in the seventies the part would be taken by two superb performers in Valerie Masterson and Norma Burrowes, long after the company had stopped touring.


Sadler's Wells Opera in Scotland - 1961

There were two Scottish visits, with Aberdeen omitted altogether.  The Spring tour of three weeks began on 17 April and visited Glasgow (Empire), Edinburgh (King's) and Dundee (Gaument). This was the final visit to Dundee before the Gaumont's closure. In Autumn the company returned on 13 November to the Glasgow Empire followed by a week in Edinburgh.

The ten operas on the tour were:  Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Rossini (Barber of SevilleCinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Traviata);  Offenbach (Orpheus in the Underworld);  J Strauss (Fledermaus); Puccini (BohèmeTosca);  Lehár (Land of Smiles).

The Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 17 April:  Mon 17 Traviata;  Tue 18 Barber of Seville;  Wed 19 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 20 Fledermaus;  Fri 21 Tosca;  Sat 22 m Fledermaus;  Sat 22 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 24 April:  Mon 24 Traviata;  Tue 25 Barber of Seville;  Wed 26 Tosca;  Thu 27 Land of Smiles;  Fri 28 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 29 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 29 e Barber of Seville.

Dundee, w/c  1 May:  Mon 1 Tosca;  Tue 2 Traviata;  Wed 3 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 4 Barber of Seville;  Fri 5 Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 6 November:  Mon 6 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 7 Bohème;  Wed 8 Cinderella;  Thu 9 Traviata;  Fri 10 Tannhäuser;  Sat 11 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 11 e Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 13 November:  Mon 13 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 14 Tannhäuser;  Wed 15 Bohème;  Thu 16 Traviata;  Fri 17 Cinderella;  Sat 18 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 18 e Bohème

Cast details for Glasgow are from a programme in the Opera Scotland collection.

Performance Cast

Calliope Muse of Poetry, mother of Orpheus

Cynthia Morey (Nov 13, 18 m)


John Fryatt (Nov 13, 18 m)

Eurydice wife of Orpheus

Iris Kells (Nov 13, 18 m)

Pluto Lord of the Underworld

Jon Weaving (Nov 13, 18 m)

Chloe Orpheus's girl-friend

Sophia Trant (Nov 13, 18 m)

Calliope's Chauffeur

Eric Stannard (Nov 13, 18 m)


Beryl Cornish (Nov 13, 18 m)


Malcolm Shaw (Nov 13, 18 m)

Cupid Venus's son, the God of Love

Marjorie Ward (Nov 13, 18 m)


Gillian Ashby (Nov 13, 18 m)

Jupiter Father of all the Gods

Eric Shilling (Nov 13, 18 m)

Juno Jupiter's wife

Heather Begg (Nov 13, 18 m)


Suzanne Steele (Nov 13, 18 m)

Vulcan Venus's husband

Douglas Stark (Nov 13, 18 m)


Barbara Walmsley (Nov 13, 18 m)


Alan Morrell (Nov 13, 18 m)


Diana Chadwick (Nov 13, 18 m)


June Johnstone (Nov 13, 18 m)

Mercury Jupiter's messenger

Louis Browne (Nov 13, 18 m)


Alfred Oldridge (Nov 13, 18 m)


Arthur Thelwell (Nov 13, 18 m)


June Whitehead (Nov 13, 18 m)


Basil Hemming (Nov 13, 18 m)

Bacchus god of wine

John Trimmer (Nov 13, 18 m)

John Styx the dead king of Boeotia

Stanley Bevan (Nov 13, 18 m)

Cerberus the three-headed watch-dog of Hades

Paul Janssen (Nov 13, 18 m)

Gwilym Lloyd (Nov 13, 18 m)

Carmelino Satariano (Nov 13, 18 m)

Lift Man

Alan Morrell (Nov 13, 18 m)

Performance DatesOrphée aux Enfers 1961

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

6 Nov, 19.30 11 Nov, 14.30

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

13 Nov, 19.30 18 Nov, 14.30

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