Opera Scotland

Martha 1957Sadler's Wells Opera

Read more about the opera Martha

This charming comedy, with its rustic English setting,  remained very popular with British audiences well into the 20th century.   In spite of its German composer and French source material,  it seems to have been regarded very much as an English opera on a par with Maritana and The Bohemian Girl,  and was performed by the same companies.  On the basis of this final visit as part of the first Sadler’s Wells tour it seems to have outlasted those contemporary English works.

Scottish Opera's group of Opera For All did tour it extensively with piano accompaniment in 1969.  It has not, however, been mounted by one of the major British companies since, being left to groups like Phoenix Opera and Haddo House to preserve a record of performances.


Dundee Press Comment

Dundee Courier & Advertiser: Friday, April 12, 1957

Outstanding quartet in “Martha”

 'The Sadler's Wells Opera at the Gaumont Theatre, Dundee, last night again produced, with unerring certainty from their galaxy of principals, the right quartet of voices for Flotow's tuneful and animated Martha.  This opera combines curiously mixed Italian, German, and even English characteristics in its music.  The famous aria, in Italian, “M'appari”, much beloved by operatic tenors, and the introduction of the ballad “Tis the Last Rose of Summer”, in something approaching thematic sequence, assure its appeal.

'In the finale there is a harmonisation of the “Last Rose”, which was sung by the full chorus with splendid effect last night.  Another fine sequence from the chorus was the Italianate melody and harmony of 'May heaven forgive you', which is the climax to Act III.  The gently romantic tale of a lady of quality and her maid masquerading as servants for hire at Richmond Fair, and being taken at their word by two eligible farmers, is set forth in charming arias and intriguing concerted pieces for the quartet.

'The opera is an opportunity for a high soprano, and June Bronhill's performance as Lady Harriet (otherwise Martha) was delicious to the ear.  Her technical skill in the coloratura style was exceptional, giving much daintiness of effect.  Rowland Jones, in the tenor part of Lionel, was another instance of careful allocation of roles, for his sweetness of tone suited the lyrical music.

'Anna Pollak, a mezzo-soprano with an excellent voice and an artiste of personality, partnered Howell Glynne (Plunkett) in the mildly humorous complementary roles. The range and colours of Mr Glynne's bass voice are unusually extensive.  The principals were due, (and received) the audience's appreciation for the pleasures they gave with the “spinning” and “good-night” quartets in the farmhouse scene.  Denis Dowling was a delightful Sir Tristram.

'Staging and costumes of the Queen Anne period were of the class we now expect.  One of the features of the evening was the remarkable precision of attack which conductor Leo Quayle achieved with the chorus work.'


Sadler's Wells Opera on tour 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 (TrovatoreTraviata);  Smetana (Bartered Bride);  Tchaikovsky (Eugene Onegin);  Puccini (BohèmeToscaTabarro,  Suor 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.

Performance Cast

Lady Harriet Durham Maid of Honour to Queen Anne

June Bronhill (Apr 11)

Nancy maid to Lady Harriet

Anna Pollak (Apr 11)

Sir Tristram Mickleford Lady Harriet's cousin

Denis Dowling (Apr 11)

Plunkett a wealthy young farmer

Howell Glynne (Apr 11)

Lionel Plunkett's foster-brother

Rowland Jones (Apr 11)

Sheriff of Richmond

Charles Draper (Apr 11)

First Footman

Ian Macpherson (Apr 11)

Second Footman

John Shiels (Apr 11)

Third Footman

Gomer Morris (Apr 11)

First Maid

Jane Gilbert 2 (Apr 11)

Second Maid

Deidree Thurlow (Apr 11)

Third Maid

Sybil Hambleton (Apr 11)


Kenneth Fawcett (Apr 11)

Farmer's Wife

Joan Clarkson (Apr 11)

Performance DatesMartha 1957

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

3 Apr, 19.30

Gaumont Theatre | Dundee

11 Apr, 19.30

King's Theatre, Glasgow | Glasgow

19 Apr, 19.30 23 Apr, 19.30

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