Opera Scotland

Tristan und Isolde 1925British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tristan and Isolde

The most notable feature of this 1925 tour of Tristan is the appearance of the New Zealand soprano Rosina Buckman, also taking the lead in Tosca and Butterfly.

One astonishing fact is the oblique reference made by the Herald's critic to the fact that he had to leave at the second interval, thus missing some of the most important elements of the performance.  Sometimes editorial deadlines must have tested the patience of any reviewer.

The Edinburgh-based reporter ignores the fact, but perhaps was able to pen his (brief) report on the train home from Glasgow, with a brisk walk up the Waverley Steps to submit it before going home - while the third act was still under way back in Glasgow.


A Glasgow Review

The Glasgow Herald of 10 October (p11) reviewed the previous evening's performance:

'A performance of Tristan and Isolde is still a sufficiently rare event in Glasgow to be notable, and the production in the Theatre Royal last evening by the British National Opera Company attracted a very large audience, who, if I accurately sensed the atmosphere of the house, had come as to a gala performance. Much has been written of the technical difficulties of this opera, and we can read in every book on Wagner of the despair which took possession of those who first essayed to produce it. 

The score, so far as the mere notes are concerned, is now less awe-inspiring than it was in the beginning, but the real difficulties of production remain and will always have to be faced. They are on the artistic side, and consist in the securing of singers who can respond completely to the very exacting demands the composer has made in his music for the two chief characters.

'Both Tristan and Isolde must have voices of heroic quality and at the same time must be able to sing during a large part of the second act with the utmost intimacy of tender lyricism.  This exacting double requirement is sometimes happily met by the chief singers, but more often the second requisite is lacking. It was so to a considerable extent last evening, and the great love duet in Act II suffered in consequence.

'Miss Rosina Buckman, the Isolde of the cast, is a gifted vocalist, and her work in the first act was of a high order. Aided by an orchestral accompaniment that was notably sympathetic in this scene, she made every point and gave a performance of sustained interest. The narration was very well done indeed, and the climax was developed to a pitch of genuine excitement and provided one of the most thrilling experiences of the fortnight.  In the second act she was less satisfying on the vocal side.  Her tones had lost some of their warmth just when this quality is most needed, so that her singing in the great duet was too brilliant, and the delivery of the long and beautifully curved phrases lacking in smoothness. The duet altogether had some rather worrying periods.

'Mr Frank Mullings as Tristan also had some difficulty in doing full justice to his music and himself in the second act, though he made frequent and very telling use of the mezza voce, which at its best is one of his enchanting qualities. In the opening scene, at his first meeting with Isolde, he used this feature almost too much. His intention was obvious and right, but the effect was to rob the impersonation of some of its knightly quality.  He may have been suffering from cold, for his former interpretations of this great role were not open to this criticism.  In the bigger moments of his music he rose in characteristic fashion to the full height of his opportunity.

'Miss Gladys Ancrum as Brangäne was excellent on the histrionic side, but the lack of ease in her singing took some of the enjoyment of her beautiful vocal quality.  Mr Andrew Shanks sang well as King Mark, and Mr Frederic Collier, who was taking the fine part of Kurvenal for the first time, was as satisfying as he always is. I regretted that I could not see his performance in the third act.

'A special word of praise is due to Mr Aylmer Buesst and the orchestra for a fine performance of the wonderful score.  Mr Buesst as a conductor was admirable in his watchfulness and resource, and the players gave him of their best.  The opera was beautifully mounted, and the various important accessories, including the work for the chorus in the first act, were excellently provided. 

The audience received the performance with great enthusiasm.'


The Edinburgh Perspective

The Scotsman critic also travelled to Glasgow for this performance, but had rather less space for his notice on 10 October (p6):

'One of the most popular operas in the repertoire of the British National Opera company, Tristan and Isolde. proved a big attraction at the Theatre-Royal, Glasgow, last night, when the house was filled with an audience keenly appreciative of the manner in which the opera was rendered.  The performance reached a high standard, and showed the splendid resources of the Company in the interpretation of Wagnerian music.

'In his best vein, both vocally and dramatically, Mr Frank Mullings excelled as Tristan, while Miss Rosina Buckman lent distinction to the part of Isolde.  Another individual performance of outstanding merit was that of Mr Andrew Shanks in the role of King Mark.  Charming vocalism and a true sense of dramatic values characterised Miss Gladys Ancrum's portrayal of Brangäne.  Mr Frederic Collier was also very successful as Kurvenal.  The orchestra was under the conductorship of Mr Aylmer Buesst.'


BNOC in Scotland - 1925

The 1925 tour consisted of two weeks in Glasgow (Theatre Royal) followed by two weeks in Edinburgh (King's).

The 19 operas performed during the tour were:

Bach (Coffee Cantata);  Mozart (Magic Flute); Wagner (Tannhäuser, Tristan and Isolde Mastersingers); Verdi (RigolettoAïdaOtello); Offenbach (Tales of Hoffmann);  Bizet (Carmen);  Rimsky-Korsakov (Golden Cockerel);  Leoncavallo (Pagliacci);  Mascagni (Cavalleria Rusticana); Puccini (BohèmeToscaMadam ButterflyGianni Schicchi); Holst (At the Boar's Head);  Vaughan Williams (Hugh the Drover).

The tour schedule was:

Glasgow, w/c 28 September: Mon 28 Rigoletto;  Tue 29 Tannhäuser;  Wed 30 mat Cav & Pag;  Wed 30 eve Hugh the Drover;  Thu 1 Oct Otello;  Fri 2 Madam Butterfly; Sat 3 mat Magic Flute;  Sat 3 eve Bohème.

Glasgow, w/c 5 October: Mon 5 Carmen; Tue 6 Coffee Cantata & Golden Cockerel; Wed 7 mat Rigoletto;  Wed 7 eve Mastersingers;  Thu 8 Otello;  Fri 9 Tristan and Isolde;  Sat 10 mat Tales of Hoffmann;  Sat 10 eve Aïda.

Edinburgh, w/c 12 October: Mon 12 Mastersingers;  Tue 13 Tannhäuser;  Wed 14  mat Bohème; Wed 14 eve Aïda;  Thu 15 Magic Flute;  Fri 16 Coffee Cantata & Hugh the Drover;  Sat 17 mat Golden Cockerel;  Sat 17 eve Carmen.

Edinburgh, w/c 19 October: Mon 19 Otello;  Tue 20 At the Boar's Head & Gianni Schicchi;  Wed 21 mat Cav & Pag;  Wed 21 eve Rigoletto;  Thu 22 Bohème;  Fri 23 Tosca;  Sat 24 mat Carmen;  Sat 24 eve Tales of Hoffmann.

Performance Cast

Isolde an Irish princess

Rosina Buckman (Oct 9)

Brangäne Isolde's attendant

Gladys Ancrum (Oct 9)

Tristan a Cornish knight

Frank Mullings (Oct 9)

Kurwenal Tristan's squire

Frederic Collier (Oct 9)

King Mark King of Cornwall, Tristan's uncle

Andrew Shanks (Oct 9)

Production Cast


Aylmer Buesst (Oct 9)


George King

Performance DatesTristan und Isolde 1925

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

9 Oct, 18.15

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