Opera Scotland

Fidelio 1959Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Fidelio

A strongly cast tour of Fidelio was conducted by Colin Davis, making his first appearance in opera in Scotland.

A memorable addition to the touring forces was supplied with the help of Richard Telfer, director of Edinburgh Grand Opera Society.  He was an old friend of Gibson and would shortly assist with the establishment of Scottish Opera.  On this occasion he helped to supply an extra chorus of 16 voices to provide a mighty sound in the final scene.   The fact that the Dundee performance alone was on a Friday will have eased any travel issues - both reaching Dundee in time for the final scene, and having less urgency about the return journey with the next day being Saturday.

Ronald Dowd was an excellent heroic tenor from Australia who, like Elizabeth Fretwell, was based at Sadler's Wells for many years.  Along with David Ward as Fernando, they had been singing these roles since Douglas Seale's production first opened at Sadler's Wells in November 1956.  Alberto Remedios also sang regularly with the company as his voice grew.  It did not initially have the sweet and mellow tone that he was producing ten years later, when he had developed into one of the great Wagnerian tenors of his generation.  Tom Swift, here singing a prisoner's solo, soon moved to further his career in Germany.  He returned to join ENO at the Coliseum, by which time he had developed into a distinguished Verdi specialist, singing roles that included Manrico, Gustavus, Don Alvaro and Don Carlos, as well as Cavaradossi and other powerful roles.


Dundee Press Report

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, May 2, 1959

“Choral Society” effect in “Fidelio”

'Noble music, magnificently sung, rewarded the large audience at Sadler's Wells Opera's new touring production of Fidelio in the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee, last night. The subject, the rescue of a Spanish nobleman from prison and threatened murder by the devotion of his wife masquerading as an apprentice jailer, is a gloomy business hardly to be reckoned as anything approaching entertainment. But the heroic theme, and above all the resplendent beauty of Beethoven's music in his only opera, were overriding compensations for the visual gloom.

'Fidelio has to overcome by musical power the drawback of lameness in dramatic action.  Much of it is vocal tableaux rather than opera, and the chorus sequences remind one more of a choral society performance. This, however, is all apart from the fact that the arias, concerted pieces and choruses are suffused with melodic beauty, and accompanied by orchestral music of compelling grandeur.

'The Leonora (Fidelio in fustian male garb) had a splendid exponent in Elizabeth Fretwell. Her powerful, expressive soprano voice possessed the essential dramatic 'edge'.  She gave a great display of technical skill in her singing of Fidelio's big first-act aria, festooned towards its end with bravura arpeggios.

'The prisoner, Florestan (unusual in opera for two things - a principal tenor in tatters, and not appearing at all until Act II) was Ronald Dowd. The foot-long beard he wore, and some mighty shackles, did not incommode him in a beautiful performance of the dungeon scene aria. It moved with unerring skill from ruminative pathos to visionary intensity with a noble expansion of tone.

'Stanislav Pieczora, the Polish bass, was suitably menacing as Pizarro, the tyrannical prison governor.  He left one in no doubt about his power, though, like most Pizarros, the heavy orchestral force was too much against the voice in the main 'hate' aria.

'There are two other bass parts. Stanley Clarkson sang with consistently musical tone as Rocco, the jailer.  David Ward, as the Minister of State, strove manfully in the last scene, even with the big tone we know he has, against an overweighting mass of sound. Anne Edwards (Marcellina) and Alberto Remedios (Jacquino) were in excellent voice.

'The splendid orchestral playing and chorus singing stemmed from Colin Davis' romantic conducting. Under his enthusiasm, the final “choral society” blaze from the chorus (augmented to over 60 by 16 singers from Edinburgh Grand Opera Group) led to an ovation for the company.'

The cast shown is as given in Dundee.


Sadler's Wells Opera in Scotland - 1959

This tour was extremely unusual in that it lasted three weeks, spread across three cities.  The same repertoire was presented in each of the venues - Edinburgh (King's Theatre), Dundee (Gaumont Theatre) and Glasgow (King's Theatre).

The six operas performed in each city were Mozart (Marriage of Figaro); Beethoven (Fidelio);  Verdi (Rigoletto);  Bizet (Carmen);  Puccini (Madam Butterfly) and  Lehár (Merry Widow).

The tour schedule was:

Edinburgh, w/c 20 Apr:  Mon 20 Merry Widow;  Tue 21 Carmen;  Wed 22 Fidelio;  Thu 23 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 24 Madam Butterfly;  Sat 25 m Merry Widow;  Sat 25 e Rigoletto.

Dundee, w/c 27 Apr:  Mon 27 Merry Widow;  Tue 28  Madam Butterfly;  Wed 29 Carmen;  Thu 30 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 1 May Fidelio;  Sat 2 m Merry Widow;  Sat 2 e Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 4 May:  Mon 4 Merry Widow;  Tue 5 Madam Butterfly; Wed 6 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 7 Fidelio;  Fri 8 Carmen;  Sat 9 m Merry Widow;  Sat 9 e Rigoletto

Performance Cast

Jaquino Rocco's assistant

Alberto Remedios (May 1)

Marzelline Rocco's daughter

Anne Edwards (May 1)

Rocco gaoler

Stanley Clarkson (May 1)

Leonore Florestan's wife, disguised as Fidelio

Elizabeth Fretwell (May 1)

Don Pizarro prison governor

Stanislav Pieczora (May 1)

First Prisoner

Tom Swift (May 1)

Second Prisoner

William McGovern (May 1)

Florestan a Spanish nobleman

Ronald Dowd (May 1)

Don Fernando the King's Minister

David Ward (May 1)

Performance DatesFidelio 1959

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

22 Apr, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

1 May, 19.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

7 May, 19.30

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