Opera Scotland

Otello 1923British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Otello

The week commencing Monday 5 November 1923 was the second week of the BNOC's third visit to the Glasgow Theatre Royal. The programme, largely to be confirmed, included a rare performance of Otello on Thursday, with The Magic Flute, also at the time an uncommon work, on the Saturday afternoon. Saturday evening saw a return to normality with Faust., though even that was said to include a 'special ballet'.

The sets and costumes of both had been inherited from the defunct Beecham company, just as other opera productions had come to Beecham from the earlier Denhof and Quinlan operations.

Frank Mullings was a noted interpreter of Otello and other dramatic roles between the wars. Miriam Licette was an equally established star. Herbert Langley, the Iago, was also a regular with BNOC. The Welsh tenor Tudor Davies was young and just starting out on his notable career, while the Scottish bass William Anderson was enjoying a long and successful one that had taken him round the world.

Cast details are from a programme in the Mitchell Library.


Autumn Review

The Glasgsow Herald of Saturday, 10 November (p10) reviewed the previous evening's performance:

'There was a very large audience last night in the Theatre Royal to witness a revival by the British National Opera Company of Verdi's Othello, after a lapse of several years.  That it was a revival emphasises the fact that the composer's two works of his old age, although acclaimed as his finest by music-lovers, have not yet been able to make a place for themselves in the permanent operatic repertoire.

'One never hears f a revival of Rigoletto, Il Trovatore, or Aïda, for the simple reason that they are always with us.  Yet Othello and Falstaff are only riper manifestations of the genius that wrote the earlier works, and contain a sufficiency of  those spontaneous melodic numbers that are so distinctive a feature in all Verdi's writings.  They have also their concerted items for the principal characters, their effective choruses, and especially they have subtler work in the recitatives, and a richer and more illuminating orchestral accompaniment.  No doubt they make heavier demands on the performers than do the earlier works, or even Aïda, and this is the probable reason why they are only to be heard at intervals.

'Falstaff requires a specially competent cast of principals, and the part of Othello must be presented by a truly heroic tenor.  Iago also must be interpreted with more than average ability if the entire performance is to be successful.  Last night the British National Opera Company roused their audience to great enthusiasm by the high standard of the whole production.  They have undoubtedly made a success of Othello.  Will they consider the reviving of Falstaff?

'Othello is a cruel story which was only made tolerable on the stage by the genius of Shakespeare, and the libretto of the opera, by Boito, is a thoroughly good one: but owing to the fact that music takes longer than the spoken word to complete any situation the jealousy of Othello must needs be aroused more immediately in the opera than in the tragedy, which tends to emphasise the essential stupidity of his jealousy and the cold cruelty of Iago's cunning.  It is fortunate that music can come in as a tempering and elevating force and readjust the balance, and in the opera, the tragedy, while still sufficiently moving, is robbed of most of its harrowing qualities.

'The performance last evening was very strong on the dramatic side.  Mr Frank Mullings was in splendid form, vocally and made his whole impersonation of the part as memorable as on previous occasions.  Verdi makes heavy vocal demands of Othello from the moment of his first appearance, and Mr mullings's opening scene was grandly sung.  This vocal form he maintained throughout, completing the effect of his brilliant singing with his powerful acting.  If any may be inclined to think his rage excessive they should remember that Othello was a Moor and was the incarnation of jealousy.

'Mr Herbert Langley gave a remarkably finished study of the part of Iago, colouring every phrase so that it rendered its fullest meaning and underlining its effect by judicious gesture.  Everything he did or sang had significance.

'Miss Miriam Licette made a most appealing Desdemona, and sang very finely with great brilliancy in the third act and with tender beauty of tone in the willow song and Ave Maria.  Mr Tudoe Davies was good as Cassio, and Miss Edith Clegg and Messrs Frederic Rickitt,  William Anderson, Frederic Collier and Frederic Hitchin completed a very satisfactory cast.

'The orchestra under the direction of Mr Julius Harrison gave an excellent account of their part of the score and showed how much of true eloquence Verdi could achieve with very simple musical means.  The chorus were splendid.'


BNOC in Scotland - 1923 (Spring & Autumn)

The company's Spring visit lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's Theatre) and three in Glasgow (at the Coliseum, as the Theatre Royal was not available).

Returning in the autumn, the visit again lasted five weeks - four in Glasgow (this time at the Theatre Royal) and one in Edinburgh (King's Theatre).

The 29 operas performed were Bach (Phoebus and Pan);  Mozart (Seraglio,  Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Mastersingers,  Rhinegold,  Valkyrie,  Siegfried,  Twilight of the Gods);  Verdi (TrovatoreAïda,  Otello);  Gounod (Faust);  Bizet (Carmen);  Saint-Saëns (Samson and Delilah);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème,  Tosca,  Madam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Charpentier (Louise);  Smyth (Boatswain's Mate,  Fête Galante);  Holst (Savitri,  Perfect Fool).  

The schedule was as follows:


Edinburgh, w/c 5 March:  Mon 5 Samson and Delilah;  Tue 6 Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 7 eve Aïda; Thu 8 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 9 Carmen;  Sat 10 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Sat 10 eve Trovatore.

Edinburgh, w/c 12 March:  Mon 12 Seraglio;  Tue 13 Tannhäuser;  Wed 14 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 14 eve Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 15 Magic Flute;  Fri 16 Mastersingers;  Sat 17 mat Bohème;  Sat 17 eve Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 19 March:  Mon 19 Rhinegold;  Tue 20 Valkyrie;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Thu 22 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 23 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 24 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 24 eve Trovatore.

Glasgow, w/c 26 March:  Mon 26 Seraglio;  Tue 27 Siegfried;  Wed 28 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 28 eve Louise;  Thu 29 Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Fri 30 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 31 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 2 April:  Mon 2 Carmen;  Tue 3 Mastersingers;  Wed 4 mat Bohème;  Wed 4 eve Samson and Delilah;  Thu 5 Magic Flute;  Fri 6 Twilight of the Gods; Sat 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 7 eve Aïda.


Glasgow, w/c 29 October:  Mon 29 Magic Flute;  Tue 30 Samson and Delilah;  Wed 31 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Wed 31 eve Bohème;  Thu 1 Nov Aïda;  Fri 2 Valkyrie;  Sat 3 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 3 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 5 November:  Mon 5 Savitri Perfect Fool;  Tue 6 Louise;  Wed 7 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 7 eve Cavalleria Rusticana & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 8 Siegfried;  Fri 9 Otello;  Sat 10 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 10 e Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 12 November:  Mon 12 Aïda;  Tue 13 Mastersingers;  Wed 14 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 14 eve Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Thu 15 Tosca;  Fri 16 Bohème;  Sat 17 mat Fête Galante & Bosun's Mate;  Sat 17 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi.

Glasgow, w/c 19 November:  Mon 19 Faust;  Tue 20 Otello;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Aïda;  Thu 22 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 23 Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Sat 24 mat Cav & Pag;  Sat 24 eve Magic Flute.

Edinburgh, w/c 26 November:  Mon 26 Aïda;  Tue 27 Louise;  Wed 28 mat Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Wed 28 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 29 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 30 Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Sat 31 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Performance Cast

Montano predecessor of Otello in Cyprus

Frederic Collier (Nov 9)

Cassio Otello's lieutenant

Tudor Davies (Nov 9)

Iago Otello's ensign

Herbert Langley (Nov 9)

Roderigo a Venetian gentleman

Frederic Rickitt (Nov 9)

Otello a Moorish general, Venetian Governor of Cyprus

Frank Mullings (Nov 9)

Desdemona Otello's wife

Miriam Licette (Nov 9)

Emilia Iago's wife and Desdemona's companion

Edith Clegg (Nov 9)


Frederic Hitchin (Nov 9)

Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic

William Anderson (Nov 9)

Performance DatesOtello 1923

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 Nov, 19.00

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