Opera Scotland

Pelléas and Mélisande 1923British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Pelléas et Mélisande

Debussy's operatic masterpiece had not been seen in Scotland since the Denhof company's final season in 1913. 

The sets and costumes from that ground-breaking event had been taken over by Beecham's company, and were later, in turn, absorbed into BNOC.

Walter Hyde was an extremely versatile singer, taking several heavy Wagnerian roles. He was also the Pelléas of those Denhof performances. 

Leading the newcomers was the much-praised soprano Maggie Teyte. She had sung Mélisande in Paris in 1908 and had also studied it with, and been highly praised by, the composer.

Re-learning such a part in English must have been quite a challenge, even for such a great singer.

Cast details for Glasgow are as reported in the Scotsman of 22 November, with confirmation for Edinburgh in the Scotsman of 30 November.


Edinburgh in Autumn

The Scotsman of Friday, 30 November (p6) reviewed the Thursday performance with great enthusiasm:

'From the comedy of the previous evening the British National Opera artists last night turned to tragedy, as represented by Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande.  It is about ten years since the work was first heard in Edinburgh, and if memory serves right it has not been repeated here since that initial performance.  The opera may therefore fairly be added to the novelties of which such generous provision is being made at the King's Theatre during the present visit of the British National Opera Company, and last night's performance brought out as large an audience as has yet been seen this week.

'Never, probably, has a composer been so happily suited in a subject as Debussy in Pelléas and Mélisande.  Debussy, in fact, is the musical complement of Maeterlinck, and he has wedded the story of the hapless lovers to vague, dreamy music, which expresses the spirit of the drama to perfection.

'Of all operas, Pelléas and Mélisande is one of the most difficult to place upon the stage.  Like Parsifal, to compare it with a work essentially different in every other respect, the faintest suggestion, in any detail, of the incongruous would be fatal to the whole effect.  Last night's performance was an artistic triumph.  Everything was in keeping, and from first to last there was nothing to jar upon eye or ear attuned to the subtle charm of Maeterlinck's play.

'Miss Maggie Teyte, who was Mélisande, Debussy himself acknowledged as his ideal exponent of the character, and from her discovery by Golaud, in the wood,  to the pathetic scene of her death, her rendering of the part, both as a singer and an actress, was instinct with poetry.

'Of the other members of the cast there could be no higher praise than to say, which is no more than the truth, that they presented studies of their respective rôles which were completely worthy of association with Miss Teyte's Mélisande.  Vocally and dramatically there was real poetic feeling in the Pelléas of Mr Walter Hyde, and the Golaud of Mr Robert Parker satisfied the very exacting demands of the character in that it was powerful and dramatic, but without ever transcending the limitations of the subdued, twilight atmosphere in which the drama moves.

'Mr Norman Allin was equally fine as the aged King;  Miss Muriel Brunskill made a gracious and sympathetic Geneviève;  and Miss Doris Lemon was convincingly boyish as the child Yniold; while Mr Raymond Ellis, in the minor character of the Doctor, did what little fell to his share with an effective dignity and restraint.

'Restraint, indeed, is one of the most important requisites of a good performance of Pelléas and Mélisande, and the manner in which the characters came and went like shadows was very impressive.  Mr Oliver Bernard's setting of the opera furnished a succession of beautiful stage pictures conceived in the spirit of the drama, and each of them, as disclosed by the rising of the curtain, at once put the audience in tune with the coming scene.

'Mr Percy Pitt conducted, and under his able direction orchestra and singers co-operated in a performance of a nature to satisfy the most critical.'


BNOC in Scotland - 1923 (Spring & Autumn)

The company's Spring visit lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's Theatre) and three in Glasgow (at the Coliseum, as the Theatre Royal was not available).

Returning in the autumn, the visit again lasted five weeks - four in Glasgow (this time at the Theatre Royal) and one in Edinburgh (King's Theatre).

The 29 operas performed were Bach (Phoebus and Pan);  Mozart (Seraglio,  Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Mastersingers,  Rhinegold,  Valkyrie,  Siegfried,  Twilight of the Gods);  Verdi (TrovatoreAïda Otello);  Gounod (Faust);  Bizet (Carmen);  Saint-Saëns (Samson and Delilah);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème,  Tosca,  Madam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Charpentier (Louise);  Smyth (Boatswain's Mate,  Fête Galante);  Holst (Savitri,  Perfect Fool).

The schedule was as follows:


Edinburgh, w/c 5 March:  Mon 5 Samson and Delilah;  Tue 6 Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 7 eve Aïda; Thu 8 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 9 Carmen;  Sat 10 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Sat 10 eve Trovatore.

Edinburgh, w/c 12 March:  Mon 12 Seraglio;  Tue 13 Tannhäuser;  Wed 14 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Wed 14 eve Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 15 Magic Flute;  Fri 16 Mastersingers;  Sat 17 mat Bohème;  Sat 17 eve Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 19 March:  Mon 19 Rhinegold;  Tue 20 Valkyrie;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Thu 22 Madam Butterfly;  Fri 23 Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 24 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 24 eve Trovatore.

Glasgow, w/c 26 March:  Mon 26 Seraglio;  Tue 27 Siegfried;  Wed 28 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 28 eve Louise;  Thu 29 Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Fri 30 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 31 mat Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 2 April:  Mon 2 Carmen;  Tue 3 Mastersingers;  Wed 4 mat Bohème;  Wed 4 eve Samson and Delilah;  Thu 5 Magic Flute;  Fri 6 Twilight of the Gods; Sat 7 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 7 eve Aïda.


Glasgow, w/c 29 October:  Mon 29 Magic Flute;  Tue 30 Samson and Delilah;  Wed 31 mat Phoebus and Pan & Pagliacci;  Wed 31 eve Bohème;  Thu 1 Nov Aïda;  Fri 2 Valkyrie;  Sat 3 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 3 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 5 November:  Mon 5 Savitri Perfect Fool;  Tue 6 Louise;  Wed 7 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 7 eve Cavalleria Rusticana & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 8 Siegfried;  Fri 9 Otello;  Sat 10 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 10 e Faust.

Glasgow, w/c 12 November:  Mon 12 Aïda;  Tue 13 Mastersingers;  Wed 14 mat Samson and Delilah;  Wed 14 eve Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Thu 15 Tosca;  Fri 16 Bohème;  Sat 17 mat Fête Galante & Bosun's Mate;  Sat 17 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi.

Glasgow, w/c 19 November:  Mon 19 Faust;  Tue 20 Otello;  Wed 21 mat Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 21 eve Aïda;  Thu 22 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 23 Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Sat 24 mat Cav & Pag;  Sat 24 eve Magic Flute.

Edinburgh, w/c 26 November:  Mon 26 Aïda;  Tue 27 Louise;  Wed 28 mat Fête Galante & Boatswain's Mate;  Wed 28 eve Phoebus and Pan & Gianni Schicchi;  Thu 29 Pelléas and Mélisande;  Fri 30 Savitri & Perfect Fool;  Sat 31 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 31 eve Madam Butterfly.

Performance Cast


Robert Parker (Nov 22, 29)


Maggie Teyte (Nov 22, 29)

Geneviève mother of Golaud and Pelléas

Muriel Brunskill (Nov 22, 29)

Arkel King of Allemonde, grandfather of Golaud and Pelléas

Norman Allin (Nov 22, 29)

Pelléas Golaud’s half-brother

Walter Hyde (Nov 22, 29)

Yniold son of Golaud

Doris Lemon (Nov 22, 29)


Raymond Ellis (Nov 22, 29)

Performance DatesPelléas and Mélisande 1923

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

22 Nov, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

29 Nov, 19.00

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