Opera Scotland

Aïda 1928British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Aïda

If BNOC were only giving two performances of a work during the four-week tour, it generally meant that the opera would be seen in Glasgow,  but either Edinburgh or Aberdeen would miss out.  In this case Aberdeen gets to see Aïda, even with a late change to one of the performers.  Frank Mullings and, particularly,  Clara Serena, were singers not often seen on tour.


The Aberdeen View

Thursday's Press and Journal had, tagged on to the end of the review of Wednesday's matinee and evening performances, an announcement of a cast change for Thursday evening:

'The British National Opera Company announce that, owing to illness,  Mr Norman Allin will be unable to appear in Aïda tonight.  Music-lovers of Aberdeen will have an opportunity of hearing in his place Mr Horace Stevens,  the Australian bass-baritone,  who has achieved extraordinary success as an oratorio singer, in the first place (his Eliah is said to be the finest since Santley), and,  more recently,  in opera.  He made his debut with the British National Company in opera only two years ago,  and has sung with them as Hans Sachs,  Wotan,  Mephistopheles,  Ramfis,  and in many other important roles.

'In his native land, Mr Horace Stevens was a dentist - probably the first to become a famous opera ''star''.'

The Press and Journal returned to the subject the following morning with an enthusiastic notice (Friday,  19 October p6):

'Unlike Il trovatore, and for musical as well as other reasons - Verdi's Aïda, which was the opera presented by the BNOC at His Majesty's Theatre last night - has not suffered from the disintegration of over-popularity.  It is too good, in comparison with Il trovatore, both musically and dramatically,  for that fate.  It is, however, probably second favourite with the public of all the Verdi operas.  Apart from the picturesque and pageant setting of ancient Egypt,  there is in its story and music a surge of human passion and frailty that beset the great and so make for true tragedy and the sympathy of the spectators.

'These things were pre-eminent in last night's performance.  It was as good an all-round rendering of the work as we are likely to hear.  In some ways it improved on last year's production,  and that was hard enough to better.  There was no change in the setting with its glow and colour.The ballet has an important share in the ritual and pageantry and did well.  It did seem at times last night as if the chorus was not sokeyed up as it might have been in some of the scenes.  In the first act there was a distinct departure from pitch on the part of the men and in the scene in which Amonasro first appears the singing of the chorus was somewhat lackadaisical.

'But if the chorus lacked fire somewhat,  there were no shortcomings in that way where principals and orchestra came into the account.  Mr John Barbirolli was at the conductor's desk.  Mr Barbirolli does not spare himself.  He is good and helpful towards his singers, and on perfect terms of understanding with his instrumentalists.

'There were two important changes in the cast from last year.  Mr Frank mullings took the part last night of Radames,  and to the casual visitor, and more so to the student of opera,  his appearavarious ways.  He is both a robust and a delicate singer,  shading his singing like the fine artist he is. and his ''Heavenly Aïda'' is not a concert number, but part of the opera.  The other principal change was the appearance of Madame Clara Serena in the part of Amneris.  Last year,  Miss Constance Willis took this part, and really there is nothing to choose between these two either in singing or acting.  Madame Serena looks,  acts,  and sings the part with the same brilliance and intensity.  There is never a moment's slackening of her grip,  and her great scene in the fourth act was one of the evening's triumphs.

'Miss May Blyth was again the Aïda.  Miss Blyth's clear, equable soprano and simplicity of style give the part of the slave princess an added charm and sympathy, and contrast finely with the more Cleopatra-like air and appearance of Amneris.  In her duets with Mr Mullings there was a fine blend of style and voice.  In the comparatively smaller part of Amonasro,  Mr William Michael achieved,  we thought,  some of the finest work of the evening.  Mr Michael is a gifted and natural actor,  as well as a singer of delicacy and power.  His intensity as the captive king welded the scenes in which he appeared.  As the King of Egypt Mr William Anderson's resonant tones were an asset in solo and ensemble,  and Mr Horace Stevens was no less effective as the High Priest.  Mr Liddell Peddieson made a brief but adequate appearance as the Messenger.

'Taken all over it was a performance that brought satisfaction of many kinds and all of them right artistically.  It is fine usic drama of Verdi's best kind,  should be played and sung for all it is worth,  and it was.  The enthusiasm that greeted such magnificent solo and concerted work as that of the third act showed the reprochement that was between stage,  orchestra,  and auditorium.'


BNOC in Scotland 1928

This final Scottish tour by BNOC was only four weeks instead of the six enjoyed the previous year.  This is partly because the King's Theatre in Dundee, an excellent modern venue, visited for the first time in 1927,  was now a cinema and no longer available.  But Aberdeen (His Majesty's) was still a welcoming venue along with Edinburgh (King's) and Glasgow (Theatre Royal).

The fifteen operas performed were:

Mozart (Magic Flute);  Rossini (Barber of Seville);  Wagner (Tannhäuser,  Lohengrin;  Mastersingers);  Verdi (TrovatoreAïda, Falstaff);  Gounod (Faust);  Bizet (Carmen);  Massenet (Manon);  Puccini (Bohème,  Madam Butterfly);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana)


The tour schedule was as follows:

Aberdeen, w/c 15 October:  Mon 15  Lohengrin;  Tue 16  Carmen;  Wed 17 mat  Tannhäuser;  Wed 17 eve  Madam Butterfly;  Thu 18  Aïda;  Fri 19  Falstaff;  Sat 20 mat  Bohème;  Sat 20 eve  Cav & Pag.

Edinburgh, w/c 22 October:  Mon 22  Manon;  Tue 23  Lohengrin;  Wed 24 mat  Faust;  Wed 24 eve  Barber of Seville;  Thu 25  Magic Flute;  Fri 26  Falstaff;  Sat 27 mat  Carmen;  Sat 27 eve Madam Butterfly.

Glasgow, w/c 29 October:  Mon 29  Lohengrin;  Tue 30  Tannhäuser;  Wed 31 mat  Faust;  Wed 31 eve  Barber of Seville;  Thu 01 Nov  Falstaff;  Fri 02  Manon;  Sat 03 mat Carmen;  Sat 03 eve  Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 05 November:  Mon 05  Falstaff;  Tue 06  Magic Flute;  Wed 07 mat  Trovatore;  Wed 07 eve  Lohengrin;  Thu 08  Aïda;  Fri 09  Mastersingers;  Sat 10 mat  Manon;  Sat 10 eve  Madam Butterfly.

Performance Cast

Ramfis High Priest

Horace Stevens (Oct 18)

Radamès Captain of the Guard

Frank Mullings (Oct 18)

Amneris daughter of the King of Egypt

Clara Serena (Oct 18)

Aïda an Ethiopian slave

May Blyth (Oct 18)

King of Egypt

William Anderson (Oct 18)


Liddell Peddieson (Oct 18)

Amonasro King of Ethiopia and father of Aïda

William Michael (Oct 18)

Performance DatesAïda 1928

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

18 Oct, 19.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

8 Nov, 19.00

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