Opera Scotland

Golden Cockerel 1924British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Golden Cockerel

The Golden Cockerel was just the kind of exotic piece that Sir Thomas Beecham would happily add to his company's repertoire. Lucky BNOC, inheriting the bright sets and costumes with equal popularity.

Perhaps the most extraordinary feature of the casting is to see the hugely versatile young tenor Parry Jones in the excruciatingly difficult, high-lying, part of the Astrologer. On this same tour he was already taking on the title role in Tannhäuser.


An Edinburgh View

The Scotsman of Tuesday, 4 November (p6) was enthusiastic:

'Rimsky-Korsakoff's Golden Cockerel, which was revived by the British National Opera Company at the King's Theatre last night, is one of the most remarkable works in the repertory of the Company.  Described as a ''fairy opera', it is, having regard to the time and circumstances of its original production in Russia, an audacious satire on the Imperial régime, and it is not wonderful that its performance was, for a time, forbidden.

'The ridiculous King, threatened with an attack upon his country, who calls upon his foolish sons for suggestions for its defence, and abusing the experienced old soldier who scouts the suggestions as absurd, entrusts the leadership of his army to the incompetent princes, and later rewards another man who has come to his assistance, with flagrant ingratitude, was too obvious a reflection upon the ways of the Imperial Court to escape reproof, even if the composer had not aggravated his offence by giving the work a distinctively Russian colouring.

'For people outside Russia, however, who have in any case, seen the Empire replaced by something worse beyond all comparison, the satire has a more general application, and is of less importance than the music, which is extraordinarily clever, and full of beauty.  The orchestration of the opera alone, with its wealth of device; repays many hearings.

'Last night's performance, which was directed by Mr Aylmer Buesst, brought out every detail of the work with admirable clearness.  There was a fine cast.  The mock dignity of Mr Robert Radford as the King was exceedingly effective, and gained greatly from its entire freedom from any of the conventional devices of the comedian.  It was the very seriousness of Mr Radford which was so funny.

'Mr Sydney Russell as Prince Guidon kept the rôle on the plane of the purely fantastic, and Mr William Michael was equally amusing as Prince Aphron.  Mr Norman Allin was excellent as the old General, and Mr Parry Jones as the Astrologer gave a fresh instance of a versatility which is not common among tenors who are mainly associated with romantic rôles.

'Miss Sylvia Nelis sang the florid music of the Queen of Shemakha, in the second act, with remarkable effectiveness, and suggested the elfin charm of the part with great success.  Miss Muriel Brunskill, as the Housekeeper, was amusing, and vocally delightful, and Miss Doris Lemon was happily suited in the music of the magic Cockerel, whose voice is heard from time to time by way of warning.

'Chorus and orchestra were both good, and in the second act, the ballet, with Miss Eily Gerald as the principal dancer, entered into the fantastic spirit of the scene very thoroughly.  altogether it was an enjoyably artistic rendering of a very difficult opera.'


Edinburgh Opinion (of Glasgow Performance)

The Scotsman reviewer went through to Glasgow to catch a second performance of the delightful pantomime-satire with which Rimsky-Korsakov ended his career. The description on Saturday, 15 November (p7) was just as enthusiastic as before.

'The British National Opera Company well maintained its high reputation yesterday evening, when they entertained a large audience at the Theatre-Royal Glasgow, to a delightful rendering of The Golden Cockerel.  Rimsky-Korsakov's charming composition is one of the most popular operas in the company's repertoire, and has a charm and appeal all its own.

'With the musical wit of the score receiving adequate expression, the performance was of a brilliant order throughout. Correct emphasis was laid upon the farcical side of the entertainment, and the stage was a veritable blaze of colour. Music, scene, and dance combined to please.

'Vocally and histrionically, Mr Robert Radford's portrayal of King Dodon was full of merit, and worthy of the applause generously accorded.

'Miss Sylvia Nelis gave a fine characterisation of Queen of Shemakha, her vocalism being a special feature in a capital indiviual performance.

'As the Golden Cockerel, Miss Doris Lemon entered fully into the spirit of the part, and was in good voice. 

'The rich vocalism of Madame Edna Thornton had not full scope in the role of the Royal Housekeeper,  and she was more than equal to all requirements, and sustained the part with distinction. 

'Mr Norman Allin impressed as General Polkan.

'Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted with his customary skill.'


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


Parry Jones (Nov 3)

King Dodon

Robert Radford (Nov 3, 14)

Prince Guidon son of Dodon

Sydney Russell (Nov 3)

Prince Afron son of Dodon

William Michael (Nov 3)

Voice of the Cockerel

Doris Lemon (Nov 3, 14)

Amelfa Dodon's nurse

Muriel Brunskill (Nov 3)

Edna Thornton (Nov 14)

General Polkan head of Dodon's army

Norman Allin (Nov 3, 14)

Queen of Shemakha

Sylvia Nelis (Nov 3, 14)

Production Cast


Aylmer Buesst (Nov 3, 14)


Edward Agate

Performance DatesGolden Cockerel 1924

Map List

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

3 Nov, 19.30

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

14 Nov, 19.30 26 Nov, 14.00

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