Opera Scotland

Madam Butterfly 1922British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Madama Butterfly

The BNOC had begun its touring life in Bradford in February, and here they were in Edinburgh one month later as their second port of call.  The repertoire was already substantial and varied as a result of being able to take over sets and costumes from Sir Thomas Beecham's defunct enterprise, which had previously employed most of the artists.

The inclusion of the hugely popular Madam Butterfly was predictable even though it also featured prominently in the repertoire of Carl Rosa.  At least when that company visited the Edinburgh Lyceum the following month they would only give Butterfly a single performance.  Concurrently with this BNOC season in Edinburgh, the Carl Rosa were a short distance away in Glasgow.

When BNOC returned to Scotland in November, Madam Butterfly had been dropped, temporarily, from the repertoire.


The First Performance

The Scotsman of Monday, 13 March (p6) reviewed the Saturday performances - Faust in the evening and Madam Butterfly at the matinee:

'On Saturday, the National Opera artists gave two very popular works, Madam Butterfly in the afternoon and Faust at night.  There may have been those who regretted that an organisation of such exceptional resources had not devoted the day to less familiar operas, but that both were very welcome was proved by the crowded audience at each performance.

'Well known as both operas are, it was a great pleasure to see and hear them rendered under such admirable conditions.  The co-operative principle upon which the British National Opera Company is organised is undoubtedly making its influence felt in the performances.  Excellent as is the personnel both on the stage and in the orchestra, it is being keyed up to something beyond the effectiveness which has been displayed on former occasions.  Everything dovetails with a precision in which there is nevertheless nothing mechanical.

'The performance of Madam Butterfly was beautiful.  Miss Anna Lindsey sang the music of the title rôle with great charm, and in her interpretation of the character she caught the right note, making the part neither too pathetic nor, where it rises into tragedy, carrying it to a pitch alien to the temperament of the deserted girl.

'Mr William Boland's Pinkerton was a sound conception dramatically, while his singing was delightful in its restrained sentiment and purity of tone.  Mr Andrew Shanks as the Consul, Miss Edith Clegg as Suzuki, Mr Sydney Russell as Goro, Mr Albert Chapman in the rôles of the Bonze and Yamadori, and Miss May Blyth as Kate Pinkerton, completed an admirable cast, while the staging presented a series of fine pictures.  Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted.'


The Second Performance

The Scotsman of Saturday, 18 March reviewed the previous evening's performance:

'Familiarity with the work notwithstanding, Madam Butterfly maintains an unshaken hold upon the public affections, and last night the King's Theatre was crowded to its utmost capacity.

The cast was identical with that of last Saturday afternoon, Miss Anna Lindsey being Madam Butterfly, Mr William Boland appearing as Pinkerton, Mr Andrew Shanks as the Consul, Miss Edith Clegg as Suzuki, Mr Sydney Russell as Goro, Miss May Blyth as Kate Pinkerton, and Mr Albert Chapman as the Bonzo, and later as Yamadori. It was one of those eminently satisfactory casts, not often attained, in which there is no weak point.'

'Miss Lindsey has made a great advance in her art since her appearances here of a year or two ago, and her impersonation of the Japanese girl was delightful in its grace in the first act, and the simple dignity of the tragic climax.

Mr Boland's Pinkerton and the Consul of Mr Shanks were both sympathetic and convincing impersonations, and Miss Edith Clegg's Suzuki displayed her admirable faculty of identifying herself with a character.'

'Last night, as on the occasion of the previous rendering of the opera, the completeness of the presentation was most satisfying.  Voices, orchestra, and scenic setting all blended in a harmonious whole. It was an occasion to be remembered with extreme pleasure.

Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted.'


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

Lieutenant F B Pinkerton U S Navy

William Boland (Mar 11 m, 17)

Goro marriage broker

Sydney Russell (Mar 11 m, 17)

Suzuki Cio-Cio-San's servant

Edith Clegg (Mar 11 m, 17)

Sharpless U S Consul in Nagasaki

Andrew Shanks (Mar 11 m, 17)

Cio-Cio-San known as Madam Butterfly

Anna Lindsey (Mar 11 m, 17)

Bonze a priest, Cio-Cio-San's uncle

Albert Chapman (Mar 11 m, 17)

Prince Yamadori

Albert Chapman (Mar 11 m, 17)

Kate Pinkerton

May Blyth (Mar 11 m, 17)

Performance DatesMadam Butterfly 1922

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

11 Mar, 14.00 17 Mar, 19.30

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