Opera Scotland

Tannhäuser 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tannhäuser

Wagner's operas were enormously fashionable at this time, and were performed by both BNOC and Carl Rosa. 

Of these,Tannhäuser was traditionally the most popular. That is still shown by the fact that it appears on two successive Saturday evenings, but the drop to two performances in total for th season indicates that this work may have passed its absolute peak of popularity and financial returns.

This tour revival is specifically described as a performance of the rare ''Paris'' version - a useful indication that BNOC management were not prepared to rest on their laurels. Wagner produced this revision of his 1845 original in 1861 for the Paris Opéra, whose rules were simple - a 'grand opera' used a spectacular historical subject and played over five acts, with a ballet inserted in the third. The master of the form was Meyerbeer, with several successes such as Robert le Diable (1831), Les Huguenots (1836), Le Prophête (1849), and L'Africaine (1865).

Verdi obeyed the rules with both Les Vêpres siciliennes (1855) and Don Carlos (1867). Wagner treated the format with contempt.Tannhäuser retained its three-act form from 1845, and the ballet was inserted immediately after the overture in the first act, to get it out of the way before any of the characters had sung a note.

Glasgow - the final day

The Glasgow Herald of Monday, 18 October summarised the Saturday matinee of Butterfly as well as the evening Tannhäuser:

'The Paris version of Tannhäuser was given in the evening, with Mr Walter Widdop in the title role. He was at less than his best in the first and second acts, losing the beautiful and individual quality of his voice whenever he was called on for big singing, and showing less interest than he might have done when he was being sung to by Wolfram and Elizabeth who are telling him things which must be supposed to affect him deeply. He found himself completely in the last act, having learned, one may surmise,''by suffering,'' in the true Wagnerian fashion. In the long narrative he sang beautifully, and with a full realisation of the dramatic possibilities, giving altogether a fine performance. The very voluminous cloak which he wore in the Hall of Song made it a difficult matter for him to realise the proper knightly bearing.

'Miss Rachel Morton gave a very personal performance as Elizabeth, showing in particular a girlish happiness in the opening part of the second act that was attractive in its freedom from conventional primadonnaism. This absence of the ''grand manner''in her first meeting with Tannhäuser and in her conversation with her father was of great dramatic value. She was a source of some anxiety to the conductor in several of her entries in the Prayer, but otherwise sang with confidence and always with a fine sense of the expressive needs.

'Miss Gladys Ancrum sang well in the ungrateful music of Venus, and was always a goddess even in her angry moods.

Mr Percy Heming, who appeared in place of Mr William Michael, who was indisposed, gave a distinctive performance as Wolfram and sang beautifully. His impersonation was full of those little details that mean so much. 

Mr Robert Radford was a dignified Landgrave. Among those who took the smaller parts, Miss Doris Lemon should have special mention for her clear and well-tuned singing of the music of the shepherd.

'In the first act the approaching pilgrims dawned on the ear rather suddenly and on both occasions as so often happens, they did not find it easy to keep the pitch, but much of their singing was very good. The tenor quality was not always pleasing in loud passages. The big ensemble of the second act was well built up, and the ladies, who are the superior part of the chorus, sang very well, as they have so frequently done during this season.

The ballet headed by Miss Olive Joyner added much to the effect of the Venusberg scene by their appropriate evolutions. 

Mr Eugene Goossens, sen, conducted skilfully and secured some very fine playing from the orchestra.

'The audience, who filled every corner of the theatre, received each act with great enthusiasm, and refused to leave at the close till they had seen and heard Mr Frederic Austin. He had to intimate a financial loss on the Glasgow season, and pleaded for a large increase in the number of local guarantors, whether of large or of small sums; but acknowledged gratefully the wide appreciation expressed, collectively and individually, of his and the Company's efforts to furnish always a rising standard of artistic finish. They are continually doing all in their power to advance the quality of their performances and it is a matter of great gratification to them all that their efforts have been recognised. ''Glasgow,'' he said, ''is one of the brightest spots of our tour.'''

The Edinburgh Comment

The Scotsman of Monday, 25 October (p8) reviewed the two Saturday programmes - a matinee of Hugh the Drover, with Tannhäuser in the evening:

'Colds have taken a heavy toll of the company within the last few weeks, and in Tannhauser, at night, Mr William Michael, announced to appear as Wolfram instead of Mr Hebden Foster, who was to have sung the rôle as a ''guest'', but was incapacitated by a cold, had himself, for the same reason, to be replaced by Mr Percy Heming.

'It was an excellent performance. Mr Parry Jones, the Tannhäuser, always presents a remarkably satisfying reading of the character. He is a good actor, his singing is true and dramatic, and a fine stage presence coupled with skill in the art of make-up, enables him to give an arresting picture of Tannhäuser, sombre and passionate, a creature apart from his eminently respectable fellow-minstrels.

'Miss Miriam Licette was the Elizabeth, singing with great charm, and making the Hall of Song aria something more than the piece of prima-donna brilliance - a Wagnerian ''Jewel Song'' - it is too apt to become. 

Miss Gladys Ancrum was in her familiar role as a splendid and convincing Venus;Mr Percy Heming, as already mentioned, was the Wolfram, an excellent performance, despite the fact that he was, himself, far from well;Mr Joseph Farrington made an impressive Landgrave, and Messrs Archibald Cooper, Philip Bertram, Liddell Peddieson and Frank Le Pla were the minstrels, while Miss Doris Lemon as the Shepherd Boy was conspicuously well in tune in music which is full of pitfalls for the singer.

'The work of both chorus and orchestra was always good. Something more might have been made of the opening scene.  As a stage picture it was scarcely up to the standard of the British National Opera Company. The second act, however, the Hall of Song, was admirable in its colouring. 

Mr Eugene Goossens, sen, conducted.'


BNOC in Scotland 1926

The company spent three weeks in Glasgow and two in Edinburgh - 1927 would see them venturing further north.

Wagner and Puccini led the field, with four operas each. There were a total of four works by three composers of the French school. Verdi was represented by one middle-period and two late masterpieces.

Notably there were two recently composed British works - something BNOC would never achieve again.

The 20 operas performed in Scotland on this tour were:

Mozart (Marriage of Figaro);  Wagner (Tannhäuser Tristan and IsoldeMastersingers,  Parsifal);  Verdi (Rigoletto,  Aïda,  Otello);  Gounod (Faust,  Romeo and Juliet);  Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Puccini (Bohème ToscaMadam Butterfly,  Gianni Schicchi);  Humperdinck (Hansel and Gretel);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover);  Bryson (Leper's Flute).


The performance schedule was as follows:

Glasgow, w/c 27 September:  Mon 27  Aïda;  Tue 28  Carmen;  Wed 29 m Faust;  Wed 29 e Madam Butterfly;  Thu 30  Parsifal;  Fri Oct 01  Tosca;  Sat 02 m  Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 02 e  Tales of Hoffmann.

Glasgow, w/c 04 October:  Mon 04 Romeo and Juliet;  Tue 05 Otello;  Wed 06 m  No Perf;  Wed 06 e Bohème;  Thu 07 Marriage of Figaro;  Fri 08 Mastersingers;  Sat 09 m Aïda;  Sat 09 e Rigoletto.

Glasgow, w/c 11 October:  Mon 11 Parsifal;  Tue 12  Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci; Wed 13 m Romeo and Juliet;  Wed 13 e Hansel and Gretel;  Thu 14  Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 15 Leper's Flute;  Sat 16 m Madam Butterfly;  Sat 16 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 18 October:  Mon 18 Romeo and Juliet;  Tue 19 Leper's Flute;  Wed 20 m Hansel and Gretel;  Wed 20 e  Otello;  Thu 21  Parsifal;  Fri 22  Aïda;  Sat 23 m Hugh the Drover;  Sat 23 e Tannhäuser.

Edinburgh, w/c 25 October:  Mon 25 Rigoletto;  Tue 26 Gianni Schicchi & Pagliacci;  Wed 27 m Madam Butterfly;  Wed 27 e Tosca;  Thu 28 Tristan and Isolde;  Fri 29 Hansel and Gretel;  Sat 30 m Parsifal;  Sat 30 e Bohème.

Performance Cast


Gladys Ancrum (Oct 16, 23 e)

Tannhäuser a knight and minnesinger

Walter Widdop (Oct 16)

Parry Jones (Oct 23 e)

Shepherd boy

Doris Lemon (Oct 16, 23 e)

Wolfram von Eschenbach a knight and minnesinger

Percy Heming (Oct 16, 23 e)

Hermann Landgrave of Thuringia

Robert Radford (Oct 16)

Joseph Farrington (Oct 23 e)

Walther von der Vogelweide a knight and minnesinger

Archibald Cooper (Oct 23 e)

Heinrich der Schreiber a knight and minnesinger

Liddell Peddieson (Oct 23 e)

Biterolf a knight and minnesinger

Philip Bertram (Oct 23 e)

Reinmar von Zweter a knight and minnesinger

Frank Le Pla (Oct 23 e)

Elisabeth niece of the Landgrave

Rachel Morton (Oct 16)

Miriam Licette (Oct 23 e)

Performance DatesTannhäuser 1926

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

16 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

23 Oct, 19.00

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