Opera Scotland

Carmen 1928British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Carmen

Three performances of Carmen on this tour - one in each city.  Perhaps the only surprise is that both central belt performances were Saturday matinees.


The View from Aberdeen

The Press and Journal of Wednesday, 17 October (p6) thought the performance was 'brilliant':

'Carmen,  well-worn, but by no means stale,  is one of the sturdiest props of operatic venture,  and last night it fully maintained its reputation.  A larger audience than the previous evening's and a greater enthusiasm greeted a performance in which were many distinctive features.  One was the playing of the orchestra in the overture and the entr'actes, under the direction of Mr Leslie Heward, the youngest in length of service of the company's conductors.  There was spirit in the playing and crispness and a crystalline clearness that intensified their significance to an extent that seemed to create just the right atmosphere for what was to come.

'In spite, however, of the fine rendering of the overture the first act went heavily.  It is curious how often the first act of Carmen does open listlessly and uncertainly.  Last night endeavour was more patent than achievement,  and even Mr Heward's impatient raps on the desk failed to waken the soldiers to life and precision.  With the appearance of the cigarette girls a brighter tone crept in, and by the time Carmen had got warmed up, all was right.

'The second act was admirable all the way,  and we had a rendering of the quintet that gave us speed together with lightness and distinctness of word and note,  in fact the best rendering we have heard for years.  The third act, too, was excellent, and the last act was only less enjoyable than it might have been because the rank and file once more fell into easy-going methods.

'All the main characters and most of the minor ones were in safe hands, and so the dramatic interest was maintained throughout.  Miss Constance Willis has developed and improved her Carmen since we first saw her in the part.  Her singing is richer and more expressive.  Carmen's music is all beauty and even in her most dramatic moments Miss Willis is never insensitive to that beauty.  Her acting,  too,  is easier and more finished;  she gets some of her best effects with a light,  almost casual word.  There is little of sentimental seductiveness about her Carmen,  still less of sensual allurement.  She seems to get her victims less by bewitching devilry than by power of will - the poor tenor appears to be hypnotised by her intensity.  A fascinating portrait certainly,  and a clever conception of the character.

''To this glittering Carmen Mr Tudor Davies's manly Don José presented an excellent foil.  In playing the part Mr Davies suggested skilfully and in manner and appearance the gradual change in Don José's disposition as the fickle Carmen cools,  becomes indifferent,  and finally contemptuous.  In Mr Davies's singing there was at times a sense of strain,  but he got all the sincerity and underlying passion in the Flower Song,  and rose to unwonted heights in the volcanic outbursts of the third and fourth acts.

'Mr Arthur Fear brought to the part of Escamillo a magnificent voice and an easy stage style,  and Mr Bernard Ross and Mr Frederick Davies were excellently placed as the two smugglers.   Miss Doris Lemon has the appearance for Micaëla,  and exactly the right kind of voice, and her singing of the beautiful music of the part had a wonderful purity.  Miss Marjorie Parry and Miss Marguerite Anderson fitted handsomely the parts of Mercedes and Frasquita, as did Mr Ralph Humble that of Morales.


Edinburgh Opinion

The Scotsman of Monday,  29 October (p8) reviewed Saturday's matinee, along with the evening's Butterfly:

'On Saturday the artists of the British National Opera Company concluded a successful but too brief visit to Edinburgh with performances of Carmen and Madame Butterfly.  Fine weather and other counter-attractions made for a smaller attendance in some parts of the King's Theatre in the afternoon than the merits of the performance of Bizet's opera deserved.

'The Carmen of Miss Constance Willis continues to improve.  Never, perhaps,  has she been seen and heard to such advantage in the rôle in Edinburgh as on Saturday.  Vocally and dramatically, it was an impersonation which was forceful,  but with no forcing of the note,  and the melodramatic was not called in as a substitute for intensity,  while her singing was always delightfully true.

'Mr Hughes Macklin is a very experienced artist,  and his Don José was an excellent performance.  Another admirable impersonation, musically and dramatically, was the Escamillo of Mr Percy Heming,  while Miss Doris Lemon made an attractive Micaëla.  The remaining characters, the Frasquita and Mercedes of Misses Marguerite Anderson and Marjorie Parry,  the Dancairo and Remendado of Messrs William Michael and Frederick Davies,  and the Zuniga and Morales of Messrs Philip Bertram and Ralph Humble,  were all in keeping with the excellence of the principals.  Chorus and orchestra acquitted themselves admirably.  Mr Eugene Goossens conducted.'


And in Glasgow

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 5 November (p8) reported:

The opera presented on Saturday afternoon by the British National Opera Company in the Theatre Royal,  Glasgow,  was Bizet's Carmen.  The work was conducted by Mr Leslie Heward,  who secured a crisp rendering of Bizet's attractive and colourful score.  Effective stage settings,  derived in some measure from the city of Seville itself in the case of the first and last acts,  enhanced the production.

'The title role was sustained by Miss Constance Williis.  She sang the part with ease,  quality and beautiful quality,  her fine voice being excellently managed throughout.  In the main she showed herself alive to the varying dramatic phases of the story and of Carmen's fickle character.  A quieter rendering of ''Over the hills and through the glades'' might have given it an effective expression of thoughts which were stealing into Carmen's mind at the moment than like something predetermined.  As José,  Mr Hughes Macklin looked less like a mere corporal than a full-blown commissioned officer who had attained to the rank of colonel at least,  and who had left hard drills and strenuous route marches far behind.  He sang beautifully, and in the last three acts with fine dramatic fervour.  The Flower Song had a notable rendering.  In the first act he sometimes seemed too nonchalant in bearing,  and some phases of the drama at this point found Don José comparatively unmoved.

'The versatility of Mr Percy Heming was evinced by his successful appearance as Escamillo,  and his impersonation showed some of his characteristic touches.  But the character of the Toreador is psychologically too shallow to make any great call upon mr Heming's gifts or upon his emotionally pliable voice.  Miss Doris Lemon expressed most beautifully the innocence and gentleness of Micaëla.  It was a pity that she was sometimes overweighted by the orchestra for she adopted what seemed the rightscale of  tone-amount for the character.  Mr Philip Bertram was well-cast as Zuniga.  Mr Bernard Ross and Mr Frederick Davies made the most of the parts of the smugglers,  and Miss Marguerite Anderson and Miss Marjorie Parry were always effective as Frasquita and Mercedes.  The quintet in the second act was delightfully sung,  but some of its lighter touches were lost against the orchestra.

'The chorus did good work,  although the tendency of singers to go out of tune in the key of C showed itself when the tenors sang ''Tis the mid-day bell.''


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 (TrovatoreAïdaFalstaff);  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

Moralès a corporal of dragoons

Ralph Humble (Oct 16, 27 m)

Micaëla a peasant girl

Doris Lemon (Oct 16, 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Tudor Davies (Oct 16; Nov 03 m)

Hughes Macklin (Oct 27 m)

Zuniga a lieutenant of dragoons

Philip Bertram (Oct 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Carmen a gypsy

Constance Willis (Oct 16, 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Marguerite Anderson (Oct 16, 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Marjorie Parry (Oct 16, 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Escamillo a toreador

Arthur Fear (Oct 16)

Percy Heming (Oct 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Dancaïre a smuggler

Bernard Ross (Oct 16; Nov 03 m)

William Michael (Oct 27 m)

Remendado a smuggler

Frederick Davies (Oct 16, 27 m; Nov 03 m)

Production Cast


Leslie Heward (Oct 16; Nov 03 m)

Eugene Goossens II (Oct 27 m)


George King


Henry Hersee

Performance DatesCarmen 1928

Map List

His Majesty's Theatre, Aberdeen | Aberdeen

16 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

27 Oct, 14.00

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

3 Nov, 14.00

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