Opera Scotland

Esmeralda 1908Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Esmeralda

Some fifteen years after his premature death (suicide by throwing himself in front of a train), leaving his third opera, The Golden Web, unfinished, Goring Thomas was still regarded as a composer whose work should last. In this revival of Esmeralda, The Scotsman declared, with no hesitation, that the Carl Rosa Company had 'produced a first-class work in a first-class way', forecasting a long career for the opera.

The Scotsman reviewer (4 April) wrote "It is a long time since Esmeralda has been produced in Edinburgh; and the performance in the King's Theatre last night not only revived a Carl Rosa tradition, but revealed the disciplined capacity on the part of the existing company to produce a first-class work in a first-class way.  esmeralda was in its first days one of the hopes of British operatic music.  Mr Carl Rosa thought when he produced it in 1883 at Drury Lane that he had secured at last a real living grand-opera in English, and written by an Englishman.  there is little doubt that his judgment was right.  Of all the English (or British) composers of the last half-century, Goring Thomas was probably the most highly inspired.  He had a fine sense of melody; his orchestration is always finished, and almost as subtly expressive of emotion as that of the most advanced French, Italian and German composers.  He had all the scholarship of sullivan, with a fine touch of passion besides, the lack of which sterilised the fine workd that Sullivan put into Ivanhoe.  But Goring Thomas had the taint which traditionally allies genius with madness; and he threw himself under a railway train at a time when his his musical and artistic attainments were just reaching maturity.  Why Esmeralda should not become a stock piece of the operatic stage along with Faust and Carmen it is difficult to say....

...the whole opera is redolent of melody and life; and it may be hoped that this effort of the Carl Rosa company to revive a genuinely inspired operatic work by a British composer may result in such an increased popularity for it that it will take a permanent place among the favourites.  Among the singers last night it is difficult to allot relative merits.

The tenor, Mr Walter Wheatley, made a grand success as Phoebus; he has a fine voice, and a rare capacity for emotional expression, and he acts with dignity.

Miss Elizabeth Burgess was a charming Esmeralda; it is a difficult part, and involves a great deal of hard work in the singing; and if her acting was occasionally colourless, it must be remembered that Esmeralda belongs to the romantic and sentimental type of human characters depicted by Victor Hugo, and not to the strong realistic style of porttraiture whci induced Prosper Merimée to paint a Carmen.

Mr Arthur Winckworth was always an artistic figure as the love-maddened priest, Claude Frollo; his fine bass toneswere delivered with some sacrifice of clear articulation of his words; but otherwise his singing was admirably artistic.  Fleur de Lys is a thankless part; it demands good singing, which it had from Miss Ina Hill, who has obviously the capacity for much higher dramatic work; but the character is cold, and makes little appeal.  The Quasimodo of Mr Charles Victor showed - what is rare in operatic artists - a higher sense of the dramatic than of the vocal demands of the part.  In emphasising the sentiment, he gave away something of the fine quality of tone by which, inthe performance of 1894, Mr Alec Marsh made the part one of the chief in the opera.  The Clopin of Mr Frederick Clendon and the Gringoire of Mr William O'Connor were excellent; and the scenery, ballets, chorus and orchestra were altogether on a scale of excellence which accords with the musical traditions associated with the Carl Rosa Opera Company."

Cast details are from the Scotsman review, which gives no mention of the conductor.

The company's 1908 tour included two weeks at the Glasgow Grand, one at the Alexandra, Greenock and finally two at Edinburgh King’s Theatre.

The full schedule was:-

Glasgow w/c 9 Mar: Mon Carmen; Tue Cav & Pag; Wed Trovatore; Thu Lohengrin; Fri Esmeralda; Sat m Fidelio; Sat e Rigoletto.

Glasgow w/c 16 Mar: Mon Don Giovanni; Tue Otello; Wed Bohemian Girl; Thu Faust; Fri Carmen; Sat m Tannhäuser; Sat e Trovatore.

Greenock w/c 23 Mar: Mon Carmen; Tue Tannhäuser; Wed Bohemian Girl; Thu Cav & Pag; Fri Esmeralda; Sat m Faust; Sat e Trovatore.

Edinburgh w/c 30 Mar: Mon Carmen; Tue Faust; Wed Lohengrin; Thu Don Giovanni; Fri Esmeralda; Sat m Tannhauser; Sat e Rigoletto.

Edinburgh w/c 6 Apr: Mon Cav & Pag; Tue Trovatore; Wed Bohemian Girl; Thu Marriage of Figaro; Fri Otello; Sat m Carmen; Sat e Maritana.

In summary: Carmen (5); Trovatore (4); Cav & Pag, Esmeralda, Bohemian Girl, Faust, Tannhäuser (3); Lohengrin, Rigoletto, Don Giovanni, Otello (2) and Fidelio, Marriage of Figaro, Maritana (1).

Thirty-five performances of thirteen operas plus the double bill of Cav and Pag.

Performance Cast

Esmeralda a gipsy

Elizabeth Burgess

Fleur-de-Lys betrothed to Phoebus

Ina Hill

Phoebus de Chateaupers a Captain of Archers

Walter Wheatley

Claude Frollo Archdeacon of Notre Dame

Arthur Winckworth

Quasimodo a hunchback

Charles Victor

Pierre Gringoire a poet, married to Esmeralda

William O'Connor

Clopin King of the Beggars

Frederick Clendon

Performance DatesEsmeralda 1908

Map List

Grand Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

13 Mar, 19.30

Alexandra Theatre | Greenock

27 Mar, 00.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Apr, 19.30

© Copyright Opera Scotland 2022

Site by SiteBuddha