Opera Scotland

Enfant Prodigue 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Enfant Prodigue

Just over a decade since the defunct Quinlan company first toured it, BNOC now performed Debussy's biblical cantata.

Quite how it worked as a prelude to Pagliacci can only be imagined.


A Glasgow Opinion

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 13 November (p7) reviewed both Saturday sessions - Bohème in the afternoon and an evening double bill of Prodigal Son (Debussy) and Pagliacci:

'Pagliacci is so often linked with Cavalleria Rusticana in operatic performances that the works have been dubbed ''sanguinary inseparables.''  The British National Opera Company, however, boldly ventured on Saturday evening  to substitute Debussy's The Prodigal Son for Mascagni's popular opera.  Whatever the audience may have thought of this quasi-novelty - Glasgow had only once before heard the French work - they probably did not enjoy their Leoncavallo any the less on account of the change.  The Prodigal Son is early Debussy, and if the composer had no other claim to distinction his name would not stand where it does today in the estimation of musicians.

'This little opera, however, has some good points.  It is built up on the lament of Lia for her lost son,  the prodigal's return in anguish and remorse, and his reconciliation to his father and mother.  Lia's song strikes a deep emotional chord, and Azael's narration of his wanderings arouses feelings of pity, but the strength of Debussy's music lies mainly in the splendid climax of the thanksgiving scene, where the chorus is employed with masterly effectiveness in a tableau of striking beauty.  The orchestral score is always interesting, the characteristic Debussy atmosphere pervading it throughout.

The new music has become much newer since The Prodigal Son saw the light and the Debussy tonalities that once seemed curiously dissonant sound almost richly melodious when contrasted with some of the freakish stuff that has come from the later school of ''advanced'' composers.

'Individually the three principals engaged in Saturday's performance made praiseworthy attempts to show Debussy's opera in a favourable light.  Miss Elsy Treweek was Lia,  Mr Walter Hyde personated the prodigal, and Mr Alfred Valenti was the father, Simeon.  Occasionally one felt that they kept a too anxious eye on the conductor's stick; there was a lack of spontaneity and confidence in their performance, and the voices, while quite agreeable in solo numbers, did not blend well in the trio which breaks into the final chorus.  Still, the production was well worthy of the work expended upon it.  The chorus and ballet were really superb, and the triumphant finish won many rounds of loud applause for all concerned, not least for the conductor, Mr Aylmer Buesst, and his splendid orchestra.'


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 Cast

Lia mother of Azaël

Elsy Treweek

Azaël the Prodigal Son

Walter Hyde

Siméon father of Azaël

Alfred Valenti

Production Cast


Nina Cox

Performance DatesEnfant Prodigue 1922

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

11 Nov, 19.30

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