Opera Scotland

Carmen 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Carmen

The second evening of this Glasgow visit saw the only performance of Carmen to be given during the whole Scottish tour.  Having opened with Aïda, the equally well-known Faust and Madam Butterfly followed on Wednesday.  This was clearly carefully planned - Thursday's Parsifal would take up most of the rehearsal time available for the theatre's resident orchestral players.

Miriam Licette was the company's leading lyric soprano, and would not sing Micaëla for much longer.  She had first sung it, in Italian, with a company that toured Britain in 1910.  This was before her official debut, which followed a period of further traing in Milan.


A Glasgow Review

The Glasgow Herald reviewed the previous evening's performance on Wednesday, 29 September (p9):

'Last evening in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, the British on National Opera Company staged Bizet's immortal Carmen for the only time during the present visit.  There were many points of special interest in the production, and the performance furnished an excellent demonstration of the difference that can be made in the whole effect of a very familiar work by a company with large resources.  Last night the important work for chorus was sung by ample forces, which included, as on Monday, members of the Glasgow Grand Opera Society;  there was a large orchestra to do full justice to the delightful score, including the charming entr'actes;  and a cast in which the minor characters no less than the principals sang well.  Finally there was the attractive dancing by the corps de ballet, with Miss Olive Joyner as première danseuse.

'To those who have followed Miss Constance Willis in her successive appearances as Carmen, it was a great pleasure to note the remarkable advance in conception and realisation that this gifted artist showed last evening.  She still introduces some ''business'' now and again which is of questionable value and capable of being argued, such as the hoydenish behaviour with the soldiers in the first act after the fight, and the spectacular throwing about of the pack of cards at the end of the third act.  If Carmen thinks it right to pick up her cards in this scene with the point of her dagger, she is, of course, quite entitled to do so, but it may be suggested she is reading her fate for herself and not to her fellow-gipsies or to the audience, and Miss Willis last evening ceased occasionally to maintain that impression.  It is always wise in an impersonation to leave a little of the complete picture to be filled in by your audience.

'These and one or two other small matters are only referred to here because they gained an unwelcome prominence last evening as psrts of a conception that was in all other respects very fine.  Miss Willis moved through the various scenes of the opera with an ease and freedom that had all the charm of spontaneity, and illuminated her binterpretation with many a subtle passing touch. This richness of detail was also to be observed in her singing, which was full of colour and gave a new significance to many of her phrases.  Her voice throughout the evening was of very beautiful quality.

'Mr Walter Widdop is a new Don José to Glasgow audiences. He was inclined to be a little too free in his conception of the rhythm of his phrases, and caused some momentary anxiety to Mr Aylmer Buesst, the conductor, on more than one occasion. Further experience should make this right.  It is the defect of a quality, for Mr Widdop is not one of those who are always wholly dependent on seeing the beat.  The part of Don José suits him admirably.  He has a fine lyrical sense as a vocalist, and it is allied to a full understanding of the dramatic possibilities of Bizet's grateful phrases, which derive most of their lasting quality from the fact that they are at once so melodious and so passionately expressive.

'Miss Willis and he played well together, and made the dramatic climax of the tavern scene very effective. It is possible that one or two details of the action here were unrehearsed, but there can be no doubt of their effect.

'Mr Herbert Langley was excellent as Escamillo, gaining his results with refreshing quietness.  Miss Miriam Licette as Micaëla, and Miss Eda Bennie and Miss May Blyth as Carmen's associates were other members of an excellent cast. The whole of the work for the quintet in the second act is worthy of special mention for its crispness and dramatic truth.'


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

Micaëla a peasant girl

Miriam Licette (Sep 28)

Don José a corporal of dragoons

Walter Widdop (Sep 28)

Carmen a gypsy

Constance Willis (Sep 28)

Frasquita a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

Eda Bennie (Sep 28)

Mercédès a gypsy, Carmen’s friend

May Blyth (Sep 28)

Escamillo a toreador

Herbert Langley (Sep 28)

Performance DatesCarmen 1926

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

28 Sep, 19.00

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