Opera Scotland

Jewels of the Madonna 1914Carl Rosa Opera Company

Read more about the opera Jewels of the Madonna

Wolf-Ferrari's large-scale piece of verismo had been scheduled for Edinburgh in 1913, but those performances were scrapped as the company's management considered more rehearsal to be essential before the public could be admitted.  It was, therefore, first seen in Glasgow a couple of weeks later.  Here, at last, capital audiences could see what they had missed.  The Scotsman critic is not entirely enthusiastic.


An Edinburgh Review

Scotsman:  Saturday, 21 February 1914  (p9)

Carl Rosa opera Company - The Jewels of the Madonna

'At the Lyceum Theatre last night there was presented an opera that was new to Edinburgh,  The Jewels of the Madonna by E Wolf-Ferrari.  It is perhaps better to describe the work than to appraise it;  for musical taste changes fast, and the search for new outlets by the new schools of composition - just as in the sister art of painting - cannot justly or wisely be adjudicated upon by old-fashioned formulae.

'Mr Wolf-Ferrari's opera got last night quite as  fine a rendering as could be expected under provincial conditions.  A year ago it was billed for production, but at the last moment, when Mr Van Noorden realised that the labours of rehearsal of very difficult and intricate music had not reached their completion, he wisely withdrew it.  In the interval the opera has been presented in various provincial centres with much success.

'There was a good attendance last night, especially in the better seats, and the reception of the work was favourable.  To say that it will achieve in these islands the same popularity which it has won on the Continent would be rash.  It represents a new type.  Aristotle, in his analysis of drama, held that the common people could only be interested in the doings of gods and demigods and kings.  To-day the democracy claims its full place upon the stage, and the aristocracy take an interest in the affairs of the poor, just as the older democracy took interest in the affairs of the great and powerful.

'This piece, The Jewels of the Madonna, is essentially based upon the common unstincts of humanity, both in its characters and scenes.  It recalls in its chief female character a shadowy imitaion of Carmen;  the realism of the scenario is as vivid as Charpentier's Louise.  The paint of passion is laid on as thick as operatic tradition can carry.  But the cleverness of the work, the effort in orchestral device to produce the emotional effect required, were calculated to suggest the question where modern music is going to stop.

'The story is simply that of a girl of the common people, with whom two men are enamoured.  She has been brought up as a sort of foster-sister and comrade by the mother of Gennaro, a blacksmith by trade, who when he reaches mature years desires to marry her.  But she is fickle and flighty, and falls under the influence of one Rafaele, a handsome and daring leader of the Camorra.

'The opening scene is a carnival in Naples,  Much of the merry diversity of Italian life and character is presented: and here it may be said that the composer has dragged in with the sanctities of the Roman Catholic Church and their processions and ritual a good deal too much of low life, and with doubtful taste.  It is this intense effort at realism that seems to be leading music into new paths.   Cavalleria Rusticana and Pagliacci were short and crisp.  The Jewels of the Madonna is long, and after all tells no new lesson.  A distraught lover, the blacksmith,  enters the sanctuary by means of his false keys, and steals the jewels, to give them to his lady-love.  The chief actors in the tragedy that follows die of the last act.

'In the performance of a piece that throughout has the power of emotional excitation,  Miss Ina Hill, as Maliella, took the first place.  She had to play the part of the impossible young Italian woman, and both dramatically and vocally - and Mr Wolf-Ferrari's orchestral accompaniments frequently pass the Wagnerian limit in their neglect of consideration for the vocalist - she acquitted herself well.  Mr Gordon Thomas, as Gennaro, had one of those parts where everything depends on the voice and the acting.  He is in character a common blacksmith.  He has no fine clothes.  His music is of that intense and dramatic style that gains not a point from the older form of mere melody.   All the more credit to this singer that up to the end he carried through a difficult part with great distinction.

'Mr Hebden Foster as the leader of the Camorra was dramatically too much of the gentleman in clothes and manner for his ugly associates.   But his serenade in the second scene, when he draws Maliella from her chamber to speak through the gate was finely sung;  his delivery of the words was articulate, and a certain dramatic firmness of style was worthy of note.  Miss Sibyl Conklin, who was so successful in Hoffmann;  did not find a congenial part in Carmela, the mother of Gennaro, but she made the best of it.

'Mr Eugene Gossens conducted the orchestra with great ability through the intricacies of a score that makes special demands in regard to the balance of the parts.'


Carl Rosa in Scotland - 1914

The 1914 season was unusual in that it was restricted to five weeks in total, and all those in the central belt.   One week at Greenock (King's), and two in Edinburgh (Lyceum), were followed by two in Glasgow (Theatre Royal).

The somewhat reduced repertoire consited of twelve operas in all.  These were by Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Wallace (Maritana);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Lohengrin);  Verdi (Trovatore Aïda);  Thomas (Mignon);  Gounod (Faust)  Offenbach  (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Wolf-Ferrari (Jewels of the Madonna).

The five-week tour schedule was as follows:

Greenock:  w/c 9 February:   Mon 9  Magic Flute;  Tue 10  Carmen;  Wed 11  Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 12  Trovatore;  Fri 13  Jewels of the Madonna;  Sat 14 m  Tannhäuser;   Sat 14 e  Maritana.

Edinburgh:  w/c 16 February:  Mon 16 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 17 Carmen;  Wed 18 Lohengrin;  Thu 19 Mignon;  Fri  20 Jewels of the Madonna;  Sat 21 m Tales of Hoffmann;  Sat 21 e Faust.

Edinburgh: w/c 23 February:  Mon 23 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 24 Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 25 Tannhäuser;  Thu 26 Magic Flute;  Fri 27 Tales of Hoffmann;  Sat 28 m Jewels of the Madonna;  Sat 28 e Trovatore.

Glasgow:  w/c 2 March;  Mon 2 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 3 Mignon;  Wed 4 Tannhäuser;  Thu 5 Jewels of the Madonna;  Fri 6 Magic Flute; Sat 7 m Tales of Hoffmann;  Sat 7 e  Trovatore.

Glasgow:  w/c 9 March:  Mon 9 Carmen;  Tue 10 Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 11 Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 12 Maritana;  Fri  13 Aïda;  Sat 14 m Faust;  Sat 14 e Tales of Hoffmann

Performance Cast

Gennaro a blacksmith

Gordon Thomas (Feb 20)

Maliella adopted daughter of Carmela

Ina Hill (Feb 20)

Rafaele a gangster, leader of the Camorra

Hebden Foster (Feb 20)

Carmela Gennaro's mother

Sibyl Conklin (Feb 20)

Performance DatesJewels of the Madonna 1914

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

20 Feb, 19.30 28 Feb, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

5 Mar, 19.15

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