Opera Scotland

Traviata 1961Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Traviata

This was the first sighting in Scotland of a new production of Traviata by prominent theatre director Frank Hauser - for many years a leading director of classic drama in Oxford and elsewhere. It had opened the previous autumn, 5 September 1960, at Manchester Opera House. Violetta was sung by the Australian soprano Elizabeth Fretwell, a long term member of the company. Other roles were taken by young singers who would go on to become familiar names – Alberto Remedios, Raimund Herincx and Joan Davies, along with two New Zealanders, Donald McIntyre and the conductor John Matheson.

The other operas on the spring tour taking in Glasgow, Edinburgh and Dundee were Tosca, Figaro, Barber of Seville and two operettas, Fledermaus (in Glasgow) and Land of Smiles (in Edinburgh and Dundee). Traviata came back in the autumn tour, which only included Edinburgh and Glasgow (the repertoire including Bohème, Cenerentola, Tannhäuser and Orpheus in the Underworld). There was an almost total change of cast.

Glasgow, in those days, had several theatres suitable for opera, even when the Theatre Royal was being used as a TV studio – but the Glasgow Empire did not host opera tours with any frequency. Perhaps more notable was the fact that Dundee only had one theatre of sufficient size, and its stage and proscenium were about to be removed to allow a rather unsatisfactory conversion to widescreen cinema. It was ironic that just a year before Scottish Opera started operations one of its four anticipated venues was suddenly off limits.


Dundee Press Report

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Wednesday, May 3, 1961

New settings delight in “La Traviata”

'If a charming tragedy were not a contradiction in terms, this description could be applied to the new production of Verdi’s La Traviata, which Sadler’s Wells Opera showed to a packed and enthusiastic audience last night at Dundee Gaumont Theatre.  The new settings certainly put a gracious face on this old favourite.  The Paris salons (Acts I and III) and the country house (Act II) were lovely examples of stage designing.  The costumes, too, were delightful.  For the salon scenes, Elizabeth Fretwell, as Violetta, the tragic courtesan, wore respectively white and black crinoline dresses reaching a diameter in the region of three yards.

'The younger Dumas’ once scandal-provoking play, with its consumptive heroine, seems pretty tame nowadays.  But it moved Verdi (who was present at the Paris premiere) to use it for an outpouring of melody of alternate gaiety and pathos.  What matter if there are moments of musical bathos - the beauties are much more frequent, from orchestra and voices.  Though the orchestral playing under John Matheson was superb, the first act was a little stiff, hardly suggesting the party of a gay courtesan.  The counterpart in Act III, however, was a complete contrast.  The spirit of its opening, with a clever new dancing sequence, had much more sparkle.

'Traviata is a prima donna’s opera, usually with Armand and the older Germont as vocal props.  This, however, was only true in part last night.  For while Elizabeth Fretwell scored a highly deserved success as Violetta, the tenor role of her lover was so beautifully sung by Alberto Remedios that one could reasonably claim him this time as full co-partner.

'Miss Fretwell’s firm and full tone remained constant throughout an exacting evening’s singing.  She gave a wonderful technical display in the coloratura opening aria “Ah, was it he?” with top notes of grand effect.  Her renunciation scene at the country house had power and the edge of sadness.  And, despite the fact that Miss Fretwell had hitherto looked in radiant health, she contrived the deathbed dolours with artistry.

'Remedios, though somewhat constricted as an actor, charmed everybody with the beauty of his lyrical tenor - an ideal choice for Armand.  His combination of head and chest voices was masterly and the whole of his singing illumined by musical understanding.  Raimund Herincx sang father Germont with outstanding qualities of range and tone.'


Sadler's Wells Opera in Scotland - 1961

There were two Scottish visits, with Aberdeen omitted altogether.  The Spring tour of three weeks began on 17 April and visited Glasgow (Empire), Edinburgh (King's) and Dundee (Gaument). This was the final visit to Dundee before the Gaumont's closure. In Autumn the company returned on 13 November to the Glasgow Empire followed by a week in Edinburgh.

The ten operas on the tour were:  Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Rossini (Barber of SevilleCinderella);  Wagner (Tannhäuser);  Verdi (Traviata);  Offenbach (Orpheus in the Underworld);  J Strauss (Fledermaus); Puccini (BohèmeTosca);  Lehár (Land of Smiles).

The Scottish tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 17 April:  Mon 17 Traviata;  Tue 18 Barber of Seville;  Wed 19 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 20 Fledermaus;  Fri 21 Tosca;  Sat 22 m Fledermaus;  Sat 22 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 24 April:  Mon 24 Traviata;  Tue 25 Barber of Seville;  Wed 26 Tosca;  Thu 27 Land of Smiles;  Fri 28 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 29 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 29 e Barber of Seville.

Dundee, w/c  1 May:  Mon 1 Tosca;  Tue 2 Traviata;  Wed 3 Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 4 Barber of Seville;  Fri 5 Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 m Land of Smiles;  Sat 6 e Barber of Seville.

Edinburgh, w/c 6 November:  Mon 6 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 7 Bohème;  Wed 8 Cinderella;  Thu 9 Traviata;  Fri 10 Tannhäuser;  Sat 11 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 11 e Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 13 November:  Mon 13 Orpheus in the Underworld;  Tue 14 Tannhäuser;  Wed 15 Bohème;  Thu 16 Traviata;  Fri 17 Cinderella;  Sat 18 m Orpheus in the Underworld;  Sat 18 e Bohème.  

Cast details are from programmes for Dundee and Edinburgh in ENO archives, the latter also in Edinburgh City Library for April and November visits.

Performance Cast

Violetta Valéry a courtesan

Elizabeth Fretwell (Apr 24; May 2)

Ava June (Nov 9)

Baron Douphol Violetta's protector, a rival of Alfredo

Donald McIntyre (Apr 24; May 2)

Derek Hammond Stroud (Nov 9)

Doctor Grenvil

Ronald Careford (Apr 24; May 2)

Donald Campbell (Nov 9)

Flora Bervoix Violetta's friend

Joan Davies (Apr 24; May 2)

Heather Begg (Nov 9)

Marquis d' Obigny

Kenneth Fawcett (Apr 24; May 2)

Gwilym Lloyd (Nov 9)

Gaston Vicomte de Letorières, a man about town

Tom Swift

Alfredo Germont Gaston's friend

Alberto Remedios (Apr 24; May 2)

John Wakefield (Nov 9)

Annina Violetta's maid

Joan Clarkson (Apr 24; May 2)

Jane Whitehead (Nov 9)

Giuseppe Violetta's servant

Gomer Morris (Apr 24)

John Chorley (May 2)

Paul Janssen (Nov 9)

Giorgio Germont Alfredo's father

Neil Easton (Apr 24; Nov 9)

Raimund Herincx (May 2)


Henry Whimpanny (Apr 24; May 2)

Basil Hemming (Nov 9)

Servant in Flora's household

William Booth (Apr 24; May 2)

Louis Browne (Nov 9)


Angela Wheeldon

Christina Bray

Jean Mitchell

John Trimmer

Performance DatesTraviata 1961

Map List

Empire Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

17 Apr, 19.30 16 Nov, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

24 Apr, 19.30 9 Nov, 19.00

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

2 May, 19.30

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