Opera Scotland

Norma 1849Italian Operatic Company

Read more about the opera Norma

The late summer of 1849 saw a Scottish visit by what was billed as the Italian Operatic Company. The tour took in the Theatres Royal in Edinburgh (two weeks) and Glasgow (four), generally performing on three nights of the week.

The repertoire was chosen from major works of Rossini, Donizetti and Bellini that are once again familiar today, even if they largely disappeared from sight for an intervening century.

In Edinburgh, prices of admission were: Boxes, 5s; Pit, 3s; Lower Gallery, 2s; Upper Gallery, 1s. No Second Price (i.e. no discounts for people arriving when the show was under way).

The following information is compiled from advertisements and reviews in various editions of the Caledonian Mercury and The Scotsman (for Edinburgh) with the Glasgow Gazette and Glasgow Herald.

The leading soprano, Signora Montenegro, was  billed as 'of La Scala Milan, Vienna, all the Italian Operas, and her Majesty's Theatre, London'. The other ladies were advertised as Madlle Montelli, from the Opera, Amsterdam and Madame Vittorio, from the Opera, Amsterdam.

The gentlemen were Signor Santiago, of the Academie Royale, Paris; Signor Montelli, from the San Carlo, Naples; Signor Bailini, of the Opera, Turin; Signor Vittorio, of the Opera, Amsterdam; and Signor Tommaso, from the Royal Opera, St Petersburgh.

The conductor was Monsieur A Hennin. The orchestra was recruited locally, larger than the theatre's usual band, and was led by Mr A Mackenzie, an excellent local violinist, whose son grew up to become a highly noted composer, Sir Alexander Mackenzie.

The performance schedule for the Edinburgh stay was: Tue Aug 21 Norma; Thu Aug 23 Lucia di Lammermoor; Sat Aug 25 Il barbiere di Siviglia; Tue Aug 28 Lucrezia Borgia; Thu Aug 30 L'elisir d'amore and last act of La Favorite; Sat Sep 1 La sonnambula.

The Glasgow schedule ran thus: Tue Sep 4 Norma, Thu Sep 6 Lucrezia Borgia; Sat Sep 8 Lucia di Lammermoor; Mon Sep 10 L'elisir d'amore and last act of La Favorite; Wed Sep 12 no perf; Fri Sep 14no perf; Mon Sep 17 Lucrezia Borgia; Wed Sep 19 Norma; Fri Sep 21 tbc; Mon Sep 24 La sonnambula; Wed Sep 26 Don Pasquale; Sat Sep 29 tbc.

Some gaps remain to be filled. It seems unlikely that such popular works as Il barbiere di Siviglia and Don Pasquale should only have received one performance each, with La Favorite appearing only as a makeweight.

The Glasgow Herald of Friday, 7 September, gave its first notes on the opening two performances - 'We feel it out of our power in the space we can command, to say all we would in praise of the Prima Donna. Her acting in Norma, and Lucrezia, was all that could be desired. Indeed we have never, on any previous occasion, seen tragic parts in the lyric drama so grandly sustained. She drew the audience with her in all the various and changing incidents of the parts, and was frequently applauded in the most rapturous and enthusiastic manner. She is a first-rate vocalist, and may well put herself, as she does, in competition with ladies whose names have been bruited by the loudest blasts of fame. But she has earned praise from the highest authorities, and in proof of this we may state that we have before us at this moment a letter in the handwriting of Il Gran Maestro, Rossini, in which he speake in the most flattering terms of her appearance at the theatre of Milan, in the character of Norma.'

Returning to the subject on Monday, 10 September the Herald says - 'Those who remember the Norma of Madame Castellan, and who received their first impression of this character from her impersonation, would hardly be prepared to expect what it could become when sustained by Madame Montenegro. Castellan, it will be remembered, had a person and features of a light and girlish cast, she seemed too young and too impassive for Norma, The character seemed too sublime for the tone of her mind. But it is far otherwise with Signora Montenegro; when she came on the stage she was the very Priestess of Irminsul.'...........'The Glasgow public have had several opportunities of hearing Jenny Lind singing ''Casta Diva,'' but her rendering of the song was more gentle, it was a Christian woman's hymn, not that of a Druidical Priestess. Both were grand in their several ways, but we think Signora Montenegro's the more true of the two.'........'In the next Act, when the famous ''Deh! con te,'' and the duet ''Mira, o Norma'' occur between Norma and Adalgisa, the audience would not remain satisfied without an encore, which was graciously accorded, the Prima Donna introducing new beauties into her part.'

Performance Cast

Oroveso Archdruid, father of Norma

Signor Bailini

Flavio a centurion

Signor Vittorio

Pollione Roman Pro-consul in Gaul

Signor Santiago

Norma High Priestess of the druid temple

Signora Montenegro

Adalgisa a virgin of the temple

Madlle Montelli

Clotilde Norma's confidante

Madame Vittorio

Production Cast


Mons A Hennin

Performance DatesNorma 1849

Map List

Theatre Royal, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

21 Aug, 20.00

Theatre Royal, Dunlop Street, Glasgow | Glasgow

4 Sep, 20.00 19 Sep, 20.00

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