Opera Scotland

Louise 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Louise

Louise was something of a rarity, so, as was usual in such cases, the performance took place towards the end of the week (on a Thursday), to give the musicians some extra rehearsal time. The opera only has four significant roles, Louise, her parents and her lover, Julien.

The other characters are individually of little significance, and for the most part provided little more than background atmospherics. Even so, while most of them are portrayed by chorus members, a significant number of leading company principals did short turns, including Eda Bennie, May Blyth, Doris Lemon, Tudor Davies, Sydney Russell and William Anderson.

Cast details are from a programme in the A M Gardiner collection at the Mitchell Library, Glasgow.


Edinburgh in Autumn

The Scotsman of Saturday, 25 November (p8) reviewed the previous evening's performance:

'It is ten years since Mr Thomas Qunlan, in the course of an admirable series of operatic performances, made the Edinburgh public acquainted with Charpentier's Louise.  Since then the opera has only been heard in Edinburgh three or four times, and its inclusion in the present National Opera season is therefore very welcome.

'The question of what is or is not suitable subject-matter for the operatic composer affords scope for interesting discussion.  Wagner considered that only legendary themes should be employed, but his ideas were no doubt largely the outcome of a reaction from the type of operatic libretto which was in general acceptance in his time.  Many things, however, have happened in opera since Wagner completed his labours, and one of them has been the advent of the spirit of realism, of which Charpentier is one of the leading exponents.

'There is no other opera which is quite like his Louise.  Charpentier himself styles it a roman musical, and it is, in fact, more like a novel set to music than an ordinary opera.  It is a study of real life in Paris, written in prose, and equipped with music which provides a running commentary upon its various personages and situations, the romantic young poet, Julian;  the milliner girl, Louise, whom he captivates;  and her decent, anxious, working class parents, fearful of the dangers which Paris presents for an inexperienced young girl.  With the realism there is combined an element of fantasy, for the spirit of Paris, alluring and dangerous, broods over the whole opera.

'Last night's performance of an opera which taxes singers, players, and producer, was in every respect admirable.  Miss Leah Rusel-Myre, a recent acquisition to the company,  as Louise, increased the eminently favourable impression produced by her Mimi on Wednesday afternoon.  Her singing was beautiful, and she is an excellent actress, her portrayal of the love-sick, mutinous workgirl being very convincing.

Mr Robert Radford and Miss Edith Clegg, as the parents of Louise, provided excellent studies of working-class character, and their makeup was particularly artistic.  Like a good portrait, in each case it suggested a life-history;  Mr Radford as a burly working man, apparently a railway porter, although the score affords no precise indication of what occupation Louise's father follows;  and Miss Clegg, as the typical working-class housewife, worn down with drudgery, and with a not unkindly nature somewhat soured in the process.

'Mr Walter Hyde made a graceful Julian, and his love-making, musically and dramatically, was in the best tradition of the romantic tenor.  Apart from the four principals just named, there are nineteen other characters in the cast, mainly figures in an elaborate background; work-girls, students, policemen, rag-pickers, hawkers and the like.  They were all good.  Particular mention, however,  is due to the Misses Eda Bennie, May Blyth, Muriel Brunskill, Florence Evelyn and Dorothy Chapman as the milliner girls Irma, Camille, Gertrude, and Blanche, and to Miss Gertrude Boxall, as the errandgirl, in the work-room scene.

'Mr Tudor Davies, as the King of the Fools, and Mr William Anderson, as the ragman, were also excellent.  The ballet, in the pageant scene, third act, presented its customary brilliance, and the dancing of Miss Penelope Spencer was particularly charming.

'Attractive, however, as the general setting of the opera is, its real interest lies in the homely tragedy of Louise and her parents, the wilful girl and affectionate but perhaps scarcely judicious parents, the indulgent father, who at length breaks into ungovernable rage, and the shrewish mother, who, too late, endeaours to prevent the tragedy which she has been largely instrumental in bringing about.  The closing scene, in which the irate father drives his daughter from the huse, was very dramatic.

'Mr Percy Pitt conducted.'


BNOC in Scotland - 1922 (Spring and Autumn)

This first season saw BNOC coming to Scotland twice. The spring visit, in March, consisted of three weeks in Edinburgh (King's Theatre).  In the autumn there were four weeks - two at Glasgow Theatre Royal, and two more in Edinburgh.

A total number of nineteen operas were included  - an astonishing number for a newly established company.  Wagner far outweighs any other composers, most notably Verdi:

They were by Mozart (Magic Flute);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Tristan and Isolde,   MastersingersValkyrieSiegfriedParsifal); Verdi (Aïda); Saint-Saêns (Samson and Delilah); Gounod (Faust); Offenbach (Goldsmith of Toledo);  Bizet (Carmen); Leoncavallo (Pagliacci); Puccini (BohèmeToscaMadam Butterfly); Debussy (Prodigal Son);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana); Charpentier (Louise).

The schedule was as follows:


Edinburgh, w/c 6 March:  Mon 6 Aida;  Tue 7 Parsifal;  Wed 8 mat Cav & Pag;  Wed 8 eve Tannhäuser; Thu 9 Carmen;  Fri 10 Samson and Delilah;  Sat 11 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 11 eve Faust.

Edinburgh, w/c 13 March:  Mon 13 Mastersingers;  Tue 14 Magic Flute;  Wed 15 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 15 eve Carmen; Thu 16 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Fri 17 Madam Butterfly;  Sat 18 mat Bohème;  Sat 18 eve Aïda.

Edinburgh, w/c 20 March:  Mon 20 Parsifal;  Tue 21 Samson and Delilah;  Wed 22 mat Parsifal;  Wed 22 eve Bohème; Thu 23 Mastersingers;  Fri 24 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Sat 25 mat Aïda;  Sat 25 eve Carmen.


Glasgow, w/c 6 November:  Mon 6 Parsifal;  Tue 7 Magic Flute;  Wed 8 mat Tosca;  Wed 8 eve Faust;  Thu 9 Louise;  Fri 10 Samson and Delilah;  Sat 11 mat Bohème;  Sat 11 eve Prodigal Son & Pagliacci.

Glasgow, w/c 13 November:  Mon 13 Aïda;  Tue 14 Goldsmith of Toledo;  Wed 15 mat Parsifal;  Wed 15 eve Magic Flute; Thu 16 Mastersingers;  Fri 17 Louise;  Sat 18 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 18 eve Faust.

Edinburgh, w/c 20 November:  Mon 20 Magic Flute;  Tue 21 Valkyrie;  Wed 22 mat Bohème;  Wed 22 eve Samson and Delilah; Thu 23 Aïda;  Fri 24 Louise;  Sat 25 mat Faust;  Sat 25 eve Tosca.

Edinburgh, w/c 27 November:  Mon 27 Siegfried;  Tue 28 Tristan and Isolde;  Wed 29 mat Magic Flute;  Wed 29 eve Goldsmith of Toledo; Thu 30 Louise;  Fri 1 Dec Bohème;  Sat 2 mat Parsifal;  Sat 2 eve Samson and Delilah.

Performance DatesLouise 1922

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 Nov, 18.30

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