Opera Scotland

Nozze di Figaro 1926British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Marriage of Figaro

While it may seem odd for BNOC just to give a single performance of this wonderful opera, they were actually following the example set by Carl Rosa on their spring tour.   Mozart operas were simply not central to the operatic repertoire the way they are now.  Also the style of performance would probably seem ponderous to our ears today.

One institution which transformed appreciation of Mozart operas was the establishment of the Glyndebourne Festival in 1934.   Between then and the outbreak of war, five Mozart operas - not just Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni and Die Zauberflöte, but also the unknown Die Entführung aus dem Serail and Così fan tutte - were performed regularly.   The 1934 Figaro cast contained two of the singers listed below, Norman Allin and Constance Willis, who were cast in the same roles.  In 1935 the production was repeated and recorded for the gramophone, so these two singers, at least, can be assessed by modern listeners.


The Glasgow View

The Glasgow Herald gives its opinion of the previous evening's performance on the morning of Friday, 08 October (p10):

'Mozart operas when thoroughly well done have a way of capturing us completely and making the more usual type of grand opera seem hopelessly sophisticated.   When the great examples of the latter kind are given they impress us in their turn, as The Mastersingers will certainly do this evening, but last night Mozart played as does a master magician with the large audience assembled in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow.  He had the invaluable help in the first instance of Beaumarchais and, as regards last night's performance, of the clever and versatile members of the British National Opera Company, but first honour must go to him.

'His three great symphonies are paralleled by by the three great operas of his closing years.  The younger generation of Glasgow opera-goers are now fairly familiar with The Marriage of Figaro and The Magic Flute, but they have had no opportunity of hearing Don Giovanni in their own theatre.  Will the BNOC make a strong effort to introduce this great work when they come next year?

'The Mozart productions of the Company have always been very satisfying, and the performance given last evening was no exception to the rule. It showed, indeed, in many details the working of that influence behind the scenes which has made the present opera season, so far as it has gone, the best that the Company have given us, and a general recognition should be made, at least once during such a season as this, of the valuable work being done night after night by the small army of workers not named on the daily programme, but headed by the experienced and gifted artistic director, Mr Frederic Austin.  Mr Austin is fortunate in the company which he directs, and last evening they served him particularly well.

'The cast of principals was interesting, and included two who were making their first appearances in their respective parts.  Miss Kathlyn Hilliard was altogether charming as Susanna.  She sang delightfully and portrayed the character with all the requisite grace, sparkle and humour.  All her work was most enjoyable.

'Miss Constance Willis as Marcellina was rather too much made up on the humorous side, and her impersonation gained nothing thereby.  Nothing need be done in Mozart that savours of broad comedy. On the contrary the humour of the story is only enhanced by having it portrayed as something that happens among ordinary people.  Miss Willis's wonderful voice was, at the beginning, and once, later on, too big in scale for the occasion.  Figaro is an opera on the chamber music plan, and calls for delicacy and subtlety.  In the ensembles Miss Willis was exactly in place.

'Mr Percy Heming was very fine as Almaviva, showing a deep insight into the character of the amorous Count, and expressing himself always with self-explanatory carriage and gesture, and especially by the appropriate use of vocal colour. His mezza voce was excellently employed and was a factor of the greatest importance in the success of the second act.

'Mr Herbert Langley's Figaro was very cleverly portrayed, and the changing expression of his face was a source of continual interest.  He seemed, like Miss Willis, rather too big in voice sometimes both in song and speech, and spoiled the close of ''Non piu andrai'' by his scale practice.  It is a great pity when these ad captandum effects are introduced in a Mozart comedy.

'Miss Miriam Licette sang charmingly as the Countess, and Miss Doris Lemon made a fascinating Cherubino. Why did she sing ''Voi che sapete'' in Italian?  Mr Norman Allin as Bartolo,  Mr Sydney Russell as Basilio, Mr William Michael as the gardener, and Miss Jessie Mitchell as Barbarina completed the excellent cast.

'The orchestra, under the able direction of Mr Eugene Goossens, played well, the chorus work and dancing were good, and the solo ensembles splendid.  Encores are generally a bad thing, but it would have been good last evening to hear the second act over again.' 


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.


Glasgow - Bookable Seat Prices (including Tax):  10s 6d; 8s 6d; 7s;  6s 9d;  5s;  3s 6d.  Gallery - Early Door 2s 4d;  Ordinary 1s 10d.

Performance Cast

Figaro the Count's valet

Herbert Langley (Oct 07)

Susanna the Countess's maid

Kathlyn Hilliard (Oct 07)

Bartolo a doctor, the Countess's former guardian

Norman Allin (Oct 07)

Marcellina Bartolo's housekeeper

Constance Willis (Oct 07)

Cherubino the Count's page

Doris Lemon (Oct 07)

Count Almaviva a Spanish grandee

Percy Heming (Oct 07)

Countess Almaviva

Miriam Licette (Oct 07)

Antonio a gardener, Susanna's uncle

William Michael (Oct 07)

Barbarina daugher of Antonio

Jessie Mitchell (Oct 07)

Performance DatesNozze di Figaro 1926

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

7 Oct, 19.00

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