Opera Scotland

Zauberflöte 1923British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Magic Flute

This recent production is clearly hugely popular with audiences, and it was given three times in the spring, with a further four performances during the autumn visit.

When it is now such a commonly staged work, it is difficult to understand that the Flute was still quite a rarity at this time.

One fascinating feature of the staging is the credit to the company's Technical Director, Oliver P Bernard, described as responsible for the specially designed 'stage settings and lighting effects'.  Lots of scene changes are promised, along with fire and water effects for the trials.   The 'special electrical installation and apparatus' was 'entirely manufactured for the BNOC by the Strand Electrical and Engineering Company, Ltd.'  It all sounds quite sophisticated for the period.

It says a lot for the company that they were able to field almost two casts, containing a significant team of the company' star performers.  Most of them stayed with BNOC for several seasons.  It was really only the two sopranos, Sarah Fischer and Gertrude Johnson, as Pamina and Queen of Night, who moved on quickly.

The second week of the BNOC's autumn season ended with Otello on Friday, The Magic Flute at the Saturday matinee and Faust in the evening.

The Magic Flute casts are taken from the Scotsman review of Friday, 16 March (p4) and, for Saturday, 10 November, from a programme in the Mitchell Library - the Herald's review (below) gives an edited version of the cast).  There is a further Scotsman review of the final matinee on Saturday, 1 December.


Scotsman Review (Spring)

The Scotsman, of Friday 16 March (p4) reviewed the previous evening's performance:

Mozart's Magic Flute was given at the King's Theatre, last night with a cast which was identical with that  of the performance of the work when the National Opera company was here in November.  There could have been no better guarantee of a general excellence, and the agreeable anticipations produced by the composition of the cast were amply fulfilled.  not less satisfactory than the merit of the individual artists was the finish of the performance as a whole, and in few operas does so much depend upon a fine ensemble as in The Magic Flute.

'Everything went with a delightful smoothness and brilliance.  The character of Sarastro is one of Mr Robert Radford's finest impersonations;  Mr Tudor Davies and Miss Sarah Fischer were no less well suited as the lovers, Tamino and Pamina; it would probably be difficult to produce another exponent in this country of the phenomenally exacting music of the Queen of Night as good as Miss Gertrude Johnson; and the humour of the Papageno of Mr Raymond Ellis had a charming companion study in the Papagena of Miss Isabel Rhys-Parker.

'The Monostatos of Mr Sydney Russell was another admirable piece of comedy, and Mr Frederic Collier's Hierophant was a worthy companion, in its impressiveness, to the Sarastro of Mr Radford.  The groups of singers who feature so importantly in the opera, the three Ladies, the three Genie, the two Priests, and two Guards were unfailingly effective, the Misses Doris Lemon, May Blyth, and Muriel Brunskill as the Ladies; the Misses Ethel Elmes, Peggie Mitchell, and  Maude Sykes as the Genie; and Messrs Frederick Rickitt and Philip Bertram, who doubled the rôles od Priests and Guards.

'There was the same effectiveness in the playing of the orchestra.  From first to last, the dominant characteristic of the performance was its perfection of co-operation.  Mr Percy Pitt conducted.  There was one of the largest audiences which the National Opera artists have had during their present visit to Edinburgh, and the recalls during the evening were numerous and enthusiastic.'


Glasgow in Autumn

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 12 November (p11) commented on Saturday's performances of Faust in the evening and the matinee of The Magic Flute:

'For the matinee Mozart was the attraction.  It is a tribute to The Magic Flute that the company not only opened their Glasgow visit with its production but have arranged to close a fortnight hence with another performance.  Saturday's matinee came mid-way through the season's programme, and the large attendance and exceedingly cordial reception of the work showed that the company interpreted accurately the wishes of their patrons in repeating Mozart's sparkling opera at this stage.

'For this second performance the cast underwent several notable changes, but the resources of the company are equal to the provision of occasional reliefs, and the standard of performance was maintained at a very high level.  The stage settings gain from their simplicity, and though black draping is the main background there is no loss of colour.  At the opening performance it was noted here that the cluster of electric lights which crowned the brow of the Queen of the Night proved a distraction to the eye and to the mind.  On Saturday this adornment was dispensed with.

'As Pamina Miss Sarah Fischer appeared in place of Miss Miriam Licette.  In all respects her singing and acting were satisfying.  Mr Tudor Davies was Tamino in the original performance, but his place was taken by Mr Walter Hyde.  The other change was in the part of Sarastro, in which Mr William Anderson acquitted himself excellently.  Mr Raymond Ellis again found Papageno a congenial role, with Miss Doris Lemon as Papagena.Miss Gertrude ohnson again fulfilled the exacting part of the Queen of the Night.  In the many concerted numbers the efficiency of the company was exhibited to advantage.'


A Second View

The Scotsman critic travelled to Glasgow on Saturday, 2 November for the matinee of Cav & Pag followed by The Magic Flute at night.  His review in Monday's edition (p6) was necessarily concise:

'There was a brilliant cast in The Magic Flute, including Miss Miriam Licette,  Miss Gertrude Johnson,  Mr Walter Hyde,  Mr Norman Allin,  Mr Frederic Collier,  Mr Raymond Ellis and Miss Doris Lemon.  The Papageno and Papagena of the last two were quite outstanding features of the performance.  Mr Bernard Reillie conducted.

'Mr Walter Hyde, in acknowledging the prolonged applause at the close of the performance, expressed the gratification of the Company at the large attendances, and the splendid reception accorded to them.  They were specially pleased with the fine reception given to the new works which the Company had presented, and it gave them great encouragement to go ahead.  They were anxious to make the Company really a National Opera Company and when they came back again they hoped to bring other new works with them.'


Edinburgh in Autumn

The Scotsman of Monday, 3 December sums up the season, as well as reviewing the Saturday performances - Madam Butterfly in the evening and The Magic Flute in the afternoon:

'On Saturday the artists of the British National Opera Company brought their short, but very brilliant, season in Edinburgh to a conclusion with excellent performances of The Magic Flute and Madame Butterfly.  Never before, possibly, has so much unfamiliar operatic music been given in Edinburgh within the space of a week as during that which has just elapsed.  And the manner of performance has been as interesting as the matter which has been presented.  For this too great praise cannot be given to the artists concerned.  Works like Pelléas and MélisandeThe Boatswain's MateFête GalanteGianni SchicchiSavitri,  and The Perfect Fool are extremely difficult, and only with many performances can singers expect to be really at home with them.

'During the past week, however, the smoothness of performance, proof of an enormous amount of hard work, has been remarkable.  Where everything on the stage and in the orchestra has been so good, it is satisfactory that the public support accorded to the Company has been of the most generous and heart description.  It is upon this public support that the future of the Company and the nature of its work depend.  The whole raison d'être of the Britsh National Opera Company is to lead the public of this country to a better appreciation of fine operatic art and a wider knowledge of its achievements.  Exactly in so far as public taste shows itself discriminating, and moved by an intelligent curiosity as to new music, will the mission of the British National Opera Company be fulfilled.  As to the encouragement to be expected in the carrying out of that mission, thr experiences of the past week are most hopeful.

'Saturday afternoon's performance of The Magic Flute was highly artistic in all its details.  There was a delightful charm in the Tamino and Pamina of Mr Walter Hyde and miss Miriam Licette,  Mr William Anderson was an impressive Sarastro, and Mr Frederic Collier no less admirable as the Hierophant.  Miss Noël Eadie, apparently a newcomer to the Company, sang the difficult music of the Queen of Night with great certainty, and a brilliance of tone which never degenerated into hardness, and the Three Ladies and the Three Boys had admirable representatives in the Miss Eda Bennie, May blyth, and Muriel Brunskill, and Ethel Elmes, Peggie Mitchell, and Molly Street respectively.

'On the comic side of the opera Messrs Raymond Ellis and Sydney Russell were in their customary rôles of Papageno and Monostatos respectively, while Miss Doris Lemon made a piquant Papagena.  The orchestra was very good.  Mr Hamilton Harty conducted.'


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 & Boatswain'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 & Bosun'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

Tamino a Prince

Tudor Davies (Mar 15; Oct 29)

Walter Hyde (Nov 10 m, 24 e; Dec 1 m)

First Lady in attendance on the Queen

Doris Lemon (Mar 15)

Eda Bennie (Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Second Lady in attendance on the Queen

May Blyth (Mar 15; Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Third Lady in attendance on the Queen

Muriel Brunskill (Mar 15; Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Papageno a bird-catcher

Raymond Ellis (Mar 15; Nov 10 m, 24 e; Dec 1 m))

Queen of Night

Gertrude Johnson (Mar 15; Nov 10 m, 24 e)

Noël Eadie (Dec 1 m)

Monostatos a servant in the Temple

Sydney Russell (Mar 15; Dec 1 m)

Seph Jones (Nov 10 m)

Pamina daughter of the Queen of Night

Sarah Fischer (Mar 15; Nov 10 m)

Miriam Licette (Oct 29; Nov 24 e; Dec 1 m)

First Boy

Ethel Elmes (Mar 15; Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Second Boy

Peggy Mitchell (Mar 15; Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Third Boy

Maude Sykes (Mar 15)

Mollie Street (Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Speaker at the Temple

Frederic Collier (Mar 15; Nov 10 m, 24 e; Dec 1 m)

Sarastro High Priest of Isis and Osiris

Robert Radford (Mar 15; Oct 29)

William Anderson (Nov 10 m; Dec 1 m)

Norman Allin (Nov 24 e)

First Priest

Frederic Rickitt (Mar 15; Nov 10 m)

Second Priest

Philip Bertram (Mar 15; Nov 10 m)

Papagena disguised as an old woman

Isabel Rhys Parker (Mar 15)

Doris Lemon (Nov 10 m, 24 e; Dec 1 m)

First Armed Man

Frederic Rickitt (Mar 15; Nov 10 m)

Second Armed Man

Philip Bertram (Mar 15; Nov 10 m)

Performance DatesZauberflöte 1923

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

15 Mar, 19.15 1 Dec, 14.00

Coliseum | Glasgow

24 Mar, 14.00 5 Apr, 19.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

29 Oct, 19.15 10 Nov, 14.00 24 Nov, 19.15

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