Opera Scotland

Pelléas and Mélisande 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Pelléas et Mélisande

Pelléas had featured in the 1923 tour by BNOC, reviving a staging that went back to the pre-war days of the Denhof company. 

The cast was highly effective then, and this repeat only had two changes. Conductor Percy Pitt had dropped out, but perhaps the highest profile change was the absence of Maggie Teyte, already renowned for her interpretation of the title role. 

Sylvia Nelis was not as well known, but nevertheless a reliable company regular.

Perhaps the most surprising aspect of the casting is the presence of Walter Hyde, who had taken the part of Pelléas back in the days of the Denhof company in 1913.  A handful of singers of this part have gone on to sing leading Wagnerian roles later in their career, but there can be few who have been able to sing - and act - this archetypally youthful character while also singing big Wagnerian parts such as Walther, Siegmund and Siegfried.


An Edinburgh Notice

The Scotsman the following morning, Wednesday, 5 November (p8), reviewed the performance:

'Debussy's Pelléas and Mélisande, which was given at the King's Theatre last night, was first heard in Edinburgh about eleven years ago, under the auspices of Sir Thomas Beecham, on the occasion of his taking over a series of operatic productions organised by Mr Ernst Denhof.  The opera was not repeated here after that initial performance until last year, and its inclusion in the present British National opera season was therefore welcome.

'No composer, probably, has ever been more happily suited in an opera text than Debussy in an adaptation of Maeterlinck's play with which he was supplied.  The play, indeed, seems to call for music by Debussy.

'With the exception that Miss Sylvia Nelis replaced Miss Maggoe Teyte as Mélisande, last night's cast was identical with that of the previous season, and a better cast could not be desired.  It was a performance in which the curious twilight suggestion of the work was most happily preserved, and as each brief scene ended, there was a strange hushed feeling in the theatre, which was the finest tribute to the success of the performance.

'There was an unforced pathos in the acting and singing of Miss Nelis which was admirable.  The Pelléas of Mr Walter Hyde had the suggestion of youth and simplicity which the part requires, and Mr Robert Parker's Golaud was a fine study of the man driven helplessly into violence by his jealousy.  The Arkel of Mr Norman Allin was very impressive, and the beautiful quality of Miss Muriel Brunskill's voice lent a special charm to her Geneviève.  Miss Doris Lemon made a most convincing child, as Yniold, and Mr Raymond Ellis was quite in the spirit of the opera as the Doctor.

'The staging, the work of Mr Oliver Bernard, was that employed last year, and presented a series of pictures exquisite in their medieval suggestion.  Mr Anthony Bernard conducted and the one exception to be taken to his treatment of the opera was that occasionally the voices did not come through the accompaniment quite as clearly as might have been desired.'


BNOC's 1924 Scottish tour

The BNOC tour of Scotland in 1924 lasted five weeks - two in Edinburgh (King's) then three in Glasgow (Theatre Royal).

Amazingly, four operas by British composers were toured, as well as four French, though only one by Verdi.  As usual, Wagner and Puccini seem to enjoy undying popularity.  One Russian piece also puts in an appearance.

A total of 19 works were performed:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro,  Magic Flute);   Wagner (Tannhäuser,  MastersingersSiegfried);  Verdi (Aïda);  Gounod (Faust);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Rimsky-Korsakov (Golden Cockerel);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);   Puccini (BohèmeMadam ButterflyGianni Schicchi);  Debussy (Pelléas and Mélisande);  Mackenzie (Eve of St John);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Holst (Perfect Fool);  Boughton (Alkestis).

The performance schedule is as follows:

Edinburgh,  w/c 27 October:  Mon 27 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 28 Carmen;  Wed 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Wed 29 eve Hugh the Drover:  Thu 30 Perfect Fool & Gianni Schicchi;  Fri 31 Siegfried;  Sat 01 mat  Marriage of Figaro;  Sat 01 eve Tales of Hoffmann.

Edinburgh, w/c 3 November:  Mon 03 Golden Cockerel;  Tue 04 Pelléas et Mélisande;  Wed 05 mat  Magic Flute;  Wed 05 eve Tannhäuser;  Thu 06 Mastersingers;  Fri 07 Alkestis;  Sat 08 mat  Hugh the Drover;  Sat 08 eve  Aïda.

Glasgow, w/c 10 November:  Mon 10 Carmen;  Tue 11 Mastersingers;  Wed 12 mat Alkestis;  Wed 12 eve  Tales of Hoffmann;  Thu 13 Magic Flute;  Fri 14  Golden Cockerel;  Sat 15 mat Aïda;  Sat 15 eve Marriage of Figaro.

Glasgow, w/c 17 November:  Mon 17 Tales of Hoffmann;  Tue 18 Bohème;  Wed 19 mat  Magic Flute;  Med 19 eve  Aïda;  Thu 20 Eve of St John & Perfect Fool;  Fri 21 Hugh the Drover;  Sat 22 mat Gianni Schicchi  Pagliacci;  Sat 22 eve Tannhäuser.

Glasgow, w/c 24 November:  Mon 24 Marriage of Figaro;  Tue 25  Faust;  Wed 26 mat Golden Cockerel;  Wed 26 eve Magic Flute;  Thu 27 Hugh the Drover;  Fri 28  Carmen;  Sat 29 mat Madam Butterfly;  Sat 29 eve Mastersingers.

Performance Cast


Robert Parker (Nov 4)


Sylvia Nelis (Nov 4)

Geneviève mother of Golaud and Pelléas

Muriel Brunskill (Nov 4)

Arkel King of Allemonde, grandfather of Golaud and Pelléas

Norman Allin (Nov 4)

Pelléas Golaud’s half-brother

Walter Hyde (Nov 4)

Yniold son of Golaud

Doris Lemon (Nov 4)


Raymond Ellis (Nov 4)

Performance DatesPelléas and Mélisande 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

4 Nov, 19.00

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