Opera Scotland

Traviata 1957Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Traviata

Traviata was the opera chosen by Sadler’s Wells as the first experience audiences in Aberdeen and Dundee would have of the company’s work, so presumably the management thought it was good.   Certainly  William McAlpine and  David Ward were two Scottish artists on the verge of major international careers.  Peter Glossop later worked with Scottish Opera many times, and  Victoria Elliott,  Elizabeth Fretwell,  Anna Pollak,  Sheila Rex and  Frederick Sharp were stalwart and long serving members of the Wells company.

Leo Quayle was musical director of Welsh National Opera and then moved to South Africa, where he became an influential opera conductor.   Joan Cross was a leading soprano with Sadler's Wells before the war, and became manager of the company even while she was still singing.  Britten composed several roles for her - Ellen Orford, Female Chorus and Lady Billows found her still in her prime.  She also created the title role in Gloriana and Mrs Grose in The Turn of the Screw.  She worked on one occasion with Scottish Opera, when she directed The Gondoliers in 1968.


Press Previews

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Tuesday, November 27,1956

Sadler's Wells Opera coming to Dundee

 'The Sadler's Wells Opera has been booked for the Gaumont Theatre Dundee for the week commencing April 8. The company is to include Dundee in its spring tour. It will be their first visit to the city. In London last night the tour manager said it expected most of their 30 principal singers will be in Dundee, along with their chorus of 48. There will be an orchestra of 56. The conductors will be Alexander Gibson, who belongs to Motherwell, Leo Quayle, and Marcus Dods, from Aberdeen. The tour repertoire has not yet been decided. Sadler's Wells' current London productions include Fidelio, Tosca, The Bartered Bride, and Don Pasquale.'


Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Saturday, March 2, 1957

The stars are coming - by Wells special!

'Topline British opera stars are coming to Dundee with the Sadler's Wells Opera, which is to be at the Gaumont Theatre during the week starting April 8. The casts will include William McAlpine, the tenor from Larbert. He went to London as a bricklayer, and was heard by a woman music lover as he sang at work.  She told him such a voice shouldn't be wasted on London rooftops and her advice started him on a notable career. He has sung at Covent Garden and Glyndebourne, besides Sadler's Wells. At 33 he is at the height of his powers. Other stars are Victoria Elliott, June Bronhill, Elizabeth Fretwell, Denis Dowling, and Owen Brannigan.

'The Marriage of Figaro, Tosca, and The Bartered Bride will be special treats for music lovers in the district.  Of the three conductors, two are Scots - Alex Gibson, born at Motherwell and a former Caird Scholarship winner, and Marcus Dods who is from Edinburgh. The company will be 170 strong, including 48 of a chorus and 57 orchestral players. Their tour begins at Newcastle and covers Dundee, Aberdeen and Glasgow.  From Newcastle the company will travel in the “Wells Special,” a 12-coach train including nine trucks to carry 50 tons of scenery and 700 costumes.

'Postal and block bookings will now be received at the Gaumont.  The box office opens to the public on March 18.  Prices will be generally similar to those for the visits of the Carl Rosa Opera - ranging from 10s 6d to 3s 6d.'


Dundee Press Review

Dundee Courier and Advertiser : Tuesday, April 9,  1957

Brilliant performance by Victoria Elliott

'Verdi's La Traviata was a curious choice last night for the Sadler's Wells Opera to start their week at the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee, as it is a three-character opera only with but a sparse chorus appearance. That is not to say, however, that it is any other than a great work of art, and perhaps the supreme prima donna showpiece of Italian opera.

'Elizabeth Fretwell, who has been singing Violetta with success, was unable to appear through illness.  This ill-chance resulted in a return to the part by Victoria Elliott, the company's leading dramatic soprano and an artiste of great experience.  Besides pouring into the opera a flood of melody, Verdi (and his librettist) patently ennobled Violetta, the courtesan of The Dame aux Camellias. This extremely exacting part asks for skill in coloratura, dramatic power and lyrical grace, in addition to a range from gaiety to the pathos of death in emotional acting.

'In a long operatic experience I have rarely seen and heard an all-round performance to equal Victoria Elliott's last night for sheer ability of vocal skill and acting.  She transmitted the gaiety, passion and pathos of Violetta supremely well.  At a score of points during her long evening's presence on the stage she figuratively gripped the audience by the intensity of her characterisation. Taking the renunciation scene and the letter-writing episode in Act II as an example, I thought her performance here subtly moving. In Act IV, in the shadow of approaching death, though re-united with Armand, she presented the famous gamut of conflicting emotions most convincingly.  Her coloratura ornament singing was highly skilled, and the power of her voice in the dramatic passages left nothing to be desired.

'William McAlpine, as Armand, sounded and looked handsome in voice and figure.  His tenor pleased greatly with its freshness and volume - how pleasant to hear a Scot (from Stenhousemuir) match the Italians at their own business. Frederick Sharp, as the elder Germont, impressed with his beautiful tone in the baritone music.

'The smaller parts, the precision and balance of the chorus singing, the opulence of the costumes and the staging, and the quality of the orchestra, all combined to assert the class of the Sadler's Wells Company. The orchestra, (which played under Leo Quayle's expert direction) will in particular be a delight to opera-lovers this week - for it is not often opera can be heard outside London to an accompaniment of such merit.

'The audience last night was below capacity, but bookings are heavier for later in the week.'


Sadler's Wells on tur in Scotland -  1957

The four week tour of Scotland for once omitted Edinburgh, going to Aberdeen and Dundee instead.  Having been without professional opera since before the war, Dundee had received hugely successful visits by Carl Rosa in 1955 and 1956, so it was logical for the Wells to follow on, as they did annually with equal success until the theatre again became unavailable in 1961.  The repertoire in each city was similar but for Dundee not hearing Il trovatore (an extra Bohème instead) and Glasgow also getting Eugene Onegin and Puccini's Trittico.

The works performed were:  Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Flotow (Martha);  Verdi (Trovatore, Traviata);  Smetana (Bartered Bride);  Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin);  Puccini (Bohème, Tosca, TabarroSuor AngelicaGianni Schicchi).  

The tour schedule was as follows:

Aberdeen, w/c 1 April:  Mon 1  Traviata;  Tue 2  Tosca;  Wed 3  Martha;  Thu 4  Trovatore;  Fri 5  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 6 mat Bartered Bride;  Sat 6 eve  Bohème.

Dundee, w/c 8 April:  Mon 8  Traviata;  Tue 9  Bohème;  Wed 10  Marriage of Figaro;  Thu 11  Martha;  Fri 12  Tosca;  Sat 13 mat  Bohème;  Sat 3 eve  Bartered Bride.

Glasgow, w/c 15 April:  Mon 15  Trovatore;  Tue 16  Bohème;  Wed 17  Tosca;  Thu 18  Trovatore;  Fri 19  Martha;  Sat 20 Mat  Bartered Bride;  Sat 20 eve  Tosca

Glasgow, w/c 22 April:  Mon 22  Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 23  Martha;  Wed 24  Tabarro & Suor Angelica & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 25  Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 26 Eugene Onegin;  Sat 27 mat  Traviata.;  Sat 27 eve Bartered Bride.

The cast for Aberdeen is from a programme in the City Library,  and for Dundee from a programme in the OperaScotland collection.

Performance Cast

Violetta Valéry a courtesan

Elizabeth Fretwell (Apr 1)

Victoria Elliott (Apr 8)

Doctor Grenvil

David Ward (Apr 1, 8)

Flora Bervoix Violetta's friend

Anna Pollak (Apr 1, 8)

Marquis d' Obigny

Peter Glossop (Apr 1, 8)

Gaston Vicomte de Letorières, a man about town

Gwent Lewis (Apr 1, 8)

Baron Douphol Violetta's protector, a rival of Alfredo

John Probyn (Apr 1, 8)

Alfredo Germont Gaston's friend

William McAlpine (Apr 1, 8)

Annina Violetta's maid

Sheila Rex (Apr 1, 8)

Giuseppe Violetta's servant

John Larsen (Apr 1)

Ben Williams 2 (Apr 8)

Giorgio Germont Alfredo's father

Frederick Sharp (Apr 1, 8)

Performance DatesTraviata 1957

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

1 Apr, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

8 Apr, 19.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

27 Apr, 14.30

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