Opera Scotland

Faust 1926Dundee Amateur Operatic Society

Read more about the opera Faust

Like many of the amateur groups, for many years Dundee Operatic made a practice of dividing their week of performances between two contrasting works.  Usually one would be operatic, while the second piece was operetta or even musical comedy.  For this season,  Faust was played with the still highly-popular musical comedy by Sidney Jones, The Geisha.

The Gounod work was an immovable fixture in the repertoires of the professional touring companies, so might have seemed an unnecessary, if not commercially risky, duplication.  However the Society had a far larger chorus than Carl Rosa could afford to take on tour (more than eighty), and with the war so recent a memory, the Soldiers' Chorus would no doubt have seen a standard of well-drilled marching that usually defeated the professionals.  Perhaps, also, the choice of an extremely popular serious work was required after the 1925 work, the local premiere of Nadeshda, by the successful late-Victorian composer, Arthur Goring Thomas.

Cast details assembled from newspaper reviews.

 

A Preview of the week

Dundee Courier: Wednesdauy 3 February 1926 (p6)

Dundee Operatic Society to stage Faust and The Geisha

'A visitor to the studio of the Dundee Operatic Society these days would find it a hive of industry, would find everyone, principals and members of the chorus alike, all busily engaged in adding the finishing touches to their parts.

'In less than two weeks these amateurs will take possession of the King's Theatre, there to present Faust and The Geisha for the judgment and enjoyment of Dundonians.

'In choosing Gounod's wonderfully popular opera, the Society have not quite such an easy task as mey be supposed.  The fact of its familiarity to most people is, in some respects, a disadvantage, for every-one who essays the part of Marguerite, for example, is up against a veritable stonewall of tradition,  and it is extremely difficult to give a convincingly individual rendering of it.

'The ''Soldier's Chorus,'' again is so appallingly hackneyed, that it has become only bearable when very well sung.  All this, then, and more, has to be considered, and taken into account when a performance of Faust is in preparation.

'The Dundee Operatic Society have, of course, thought of all this,  so we can safely look forward to a very creditable rendering of the opera.

'It is over sixty-five years since Faust was first produced, and it has been played more than any other opera in existence.  The reason for its popularity is perhaps its genuine all-round qualities, for many other operas, though commanding much more respect musically, are cursed with inane librettos, while Faust has the advantage of Goethe's wonderful story,  which, of course, everybody knows.

'Who has not thrilled to the dramatic and supernatural apparition of Mephistopheles in the first act;  the Cavatina ''Even bravest heart may swell''(specially written for Santley) in the second; and the whole of Act III, the famous garden scene, in which we hear for the first time in the opera the pure tones of the high soprano ringing out in the  ecstatic ''Jewel Song'', the song which Christine Nilsson,  Adelina Patti,  Nellie Melba and countless others, have all delighted to sing.

'Faust resembles Carmen in that it met with a cold reception when first produced,  and was only produced thirty-seven times times during the first ten years of its existence.

'The Paris musical public, which existed from the 'fifties to the 'seventies of last century, seems to have been abnormally obtuse, at least as far as their native composers were concerned.  The score of Faust was refused many times by publishers, and the wonderful Carmen, of Bizet,  one of the greatest operas ever written,  met with such cruel indifference that its composer literally died of disappointment.

'The Geisha is one of those rare musical comedies which obstinately refuses to be relegated to the limbo where most one time popular efforts of this description abide.  It was first produced at Daly's in 1896, and the tuneful and happy music of Sidneu Jones at once began to be heard everywhere.

'This operetta was really responsible for the ultimate fame of Marie Tempest, who created the role of O Mimosa San.  It has been revived since then, and its gay tunes will no doubt be welcomed when it is p;ayed at the King's Theatre the week after next by our capable amateurs.'

 

The Courier's Review of Opening Night

Dundee Courier:  Tuesday, 16 February 1926 (p5)

Dundee Operatic Society  Give s Brilliant Performance of Gounod's Faust

'The Dundee Operatic Society opened their week of opera in the King's Theatre with a very fine performance of Gounod's Faust last night.   The long-continued popularity of the opera is partly due tio tjhe nature of the story - a sentimentalised version of the famous mediaeval legend.  But it retrains its position as a favourite amongst operas more on account of the sensuous nature of Gounod's music.

'Much of it makes an immediate appeal by reason of its sweetness. - a sweetness that cloys in time but is still very effective vocally and easily grasped at first hearing.  Besides this there are plenty of good,  stirring choruses - an important matter with amateur societies - several of the set numbers have not yet entirely lost their freshness.

'The Dundee Operatic Company gave the work with a satisfactory completeness.  They staged it well;  it had the benefit of numbers,  and the band was not only full as regards parts but an unusually capable body.

'There was nothing slipshod or casual about the preparations or the performance,  and even professional companies have seldom been so careful about details. The company gave a performance of all-round merit,  chorus, principals and band alike working together with an admirable team spirit.

'The chorus was a particularly strong body,  being distinguished by ample tone and good balance.  Their lighter qualities sparkled in the Kermesse scene,  and the spirited singing of the men in the Soldiers' Chorus broadened out to a rich,  vigorous climax when the women's voices joined in.  The four-part prayer after the death of Valentine gained in impressiveness in its quiet wistfulness and restraint.

'The place of honour must be given to Mr A B Duncan for his splendid reading of the part of Mephistopheles.  It is the dominating part and was played in a dominating manner.  Mr Duncan has a flair for dramatic singing;  his voice is rich in its varied colour,  and he sang ''The Calf of Gold'' with spirited verve and the serenade with a sardonic bite that gave significance to both words and music.

'But it was not only in the songs that he excelled,  for every phrase he sang had character. and he made Mephistopheles all through the diabolus ex machina,  an ironical,  mordantly humorous, and  forceful personage,  who moulded Faust to his purposes through sheer strength of will.

'Mr Fletcher Perry played Valentine.  Mr Perry has a sense for the stage.  He acted with a natural ease,  and his fine voice and clear diction gave point to word and singing phrase.  Each section of ''Even Bravest Heart'' had its special merit,  and the death scene,  not torn to tatters as is sometimes the custom,   was quite impressive by the dignified quality of the singing.

'Mr John C Ross, as Faust, was not in his best voice last night, and he hardly held his own in some of the concerted pieces.  But his artistic gifts were evident in his general conception of the part,  and he was as fine in the scenes he acted with Mephistopheles as in those tender ones with Marguerite.  The long scene in the first act,  when he holds the stage alone,  had many good moments,  and his singing of ''All  hail,  thou dwelling pure and holy'' was very sympathetically and artistically rendered.

'There is not much for Wagner to do,  but Mr H H Robertson used a nice baritone voice to excellent effect.  He is a promising singer.

'In the florid music for Marguerite, Miss Gladys Lamond revealed rare qualities for fluent and smooth singing.  The runs and elegances of the ''Jewel Song'' came off with ease and exactness of intonation.  Her voice has not the weight for an exalted rendering of the great solo in the last act,  but in purely lyrical parts and in the love scenes with Faust she used a delightful sweetness of pure tone.  She made a very gentle and appealing Marguerite.

'As Siebel Miss Ella Lee acted vry well,  and sang the music with a charming quality of tone and a touch of deep feeling.  Her two solos, ''When all was young'' and ''Gentle Flowers,'' were very artistic numbers.  Miss Bessie  Wallace sang the music for Martha admirably and acted with a nice sense of humour.

'The Society is fortunate in its stage manager,  Miss Rosa Macdougald,   Her artistic sense shone through the stage groupings and actions of the players, and her knowledge of stagecraft was of immense value on the side of natural movements and tableaux.

'With Mr D A Christie as their musical director,  the company is uncommonly well suited.  He knows opera,  he knows voices,  and he knows the orchestra.  His work of training has been exceedingly thorough, and the success of the performance last evening owed as much to his work as trainer as to his skill as conductor.

'One suggestion may be made.  Most operatic acts end with a short orchestral passsage after the stage action is concluded, and it is not usual for principals to take their call or for the curtain to be raised for this purpose until the orchestra has played the last bar given it by the composer.''

Performance Cast

Faust a learned doctor

John C Ross

Méphistophélès the devil

Mr A B Duncan

Valentin Marguerite's brother

Fletcher Perry

Wagner a student of Dr Faust

Mr H H Robertson

Marguerite

Gladys Lamond

Siébel a student of Dr Faust, in love with Marguerite

Ella Lee

Marthe a neighbour

Bessie Wallace

Performance DatesFaust 1926

Map List

King's Theatre, Dundee | Dundee

15 Feb, 19.30 17 Feb, 19.30 19 Feb, 19.30

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