Opera Scotland

Otello 1925British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Otello

An excellent revival of what seems to have been a good production.  And at least it got three performances, rather than the pair most of the operas received.  Even then, it seems surprising that alternative castings should be available - apart, of course, from Frank Mullings as a famous interpreter of the title role.


Glasgow Opinion

The Glasgow Herald on Friday, 2 October (p7) reported:

'The British National Opera Company returned to Verdi last evening, when they produced Othello in the Theatre Royal, Glasgow, before a very large audience. Both in Rigoletto and Othello the story is an unpleasant one, even for opera, but in the case of the latter work there is an element of cruelty in the plot which makes it much more disturbing to the onlooker, for Desdemona's murder is more terrible than Gilda's self-sacrifice.

'Since music is the language of the emotions, gives them a heightened expression, and appeals finally to the emotional sense of the listener, it ought to follow that a musical setting of the story of Othello, Iago and Desdemona would be almost unbearable in its poignancy. That this is not the case is shown by the fact that Verdi's Othello is growing in popularity.  Even when it is remembered that music when expressing an emotion can exalt as well as heighten it, it is possible to imagine a musical setting of the Othello story which might prove tootruly and completely expressive for the spiritual comfort of the majority of listeners.

'But Verdi is still Verdi even in the works of his old age, and by retaining in his later scores the ''flair'' for spontaneous melody, which is still an outstanding quality of his early work, he has managed to soften for his hearers the expression of some of the more terrible moments of the drama.  By offering in addition the attractive qualities of a greatly improved craftsmanship as a composer he has further mollified the effect of his music, for it is at all times an enjoyable experience to be interested in a piece of work well done. But it is also worth noting that Verdi's musical resources for the expression even of the jealousy of Othello are but little in advance harmonically of those he used in his early works, and this may be reckoned a happy fact.

'One thing which he did in Othello which he had not achieved before. He wrote the music for Desdemona in the last scene with a beauty and simplicity of melodic interest which made it at the same time deeply expressive, sincere and irresistible in its appeal.  The artistic value of the ''Willow'' ballad and the ''Ave Maria'' in relation to the work as a whole can scarcely be overestimated, and though it might not suffice, even if occasion offered, to ''bring down the house'' as did the duet between Othello and Iago at the close of the secnd act, it is nevertheless a truer sample of the inspiration of the mature Verdi.

'Miss Eda Bennie, who took the part of Desdemona last evening, showed the greatest artistry in this scene, singing beautifully and with an intimacy of effect for which one is very grateful in opera. But she was altogether well suited for the part, and made of it a very appealing figure.

'The Othello of Mr Frank Mullings is familiar to Glasgoe opera-goers. It has always been one of his best parts, and he presented it again last evening in all its elemental power.  His vocal resource is remarkable, and, apart from a slight lapse at the close of the first act, he sang well throughout.

'The colour which makes his singing so eloquent in great moments was too sparingly employed by Mr Alan Turner, who last night so frequently came near to being a great Iago, but never quite succeeded. He lacked also to some extent subtlety of stage deportment, and on occasion missed the due effect of his best singing by failing to support his musical utterance with eloquence of significant gesture, or the still greater eloquence that comes sometimes by avoiding movement altogether.  His use of the arms in particular was inclined to be too conventional. It is of value in Othello, either as play or opera, that Iago should impress the audience as a master craftsman who takes an artistic pleasure in the high quality of his work, and Mr Turner, though his performance had many excellent features, just failed to do this.

'Mr Tudor Davies was a satisfactory Cassio, taking his proper place in the dramatic scheme, and Miss Constance Willis suggested well the sympathetic nature that supports the lonely Desdemona in her time of affliction.

'The chorus were very good, and Mr Aylmer Buesst, as controller in chief of the performance, was entirely satisfactory. Under his careful direction the orchestra made the most of the fine material Verdi has given them. The performance was very enthusiastically received.'


And in Edinburgh

The Scotsman on Tuesday, 20 October (p6) was extremely enthusiastic:

'Verdi's Othello has not been heard in Edinburgh for a few years,  and its revival at the King's Theatre last night, judging by the large audience which it attracted, has been awaited as one of the most interesting events of the present season of the British National Opera Company.  It was a magnificent performance of a great work.

'The Othello of Mr Frank Mullings, of which there are vivid recollections here, has gained, if anything in quality.  It is a wonderful piece of tragic acting, joined to a poignant interpretation of Verdi's music.  The fiery reproach to the brawling officers, and the grave tenderness of the duet with Desdemona in the first act, the growing frenzy under the subtle goading of Iago, and the great finale, with its fury and pathetic remorse, held the audience spellbound.

'The Desdemona of Miss Miriam Licette was a worthy companion study, genuinely dramatic in every accent, and with a charm and simplicity that always carried conviction.  Mr Harold Williams made an excellent Iago, the difficult combination of apparent honesty and real devilry being very successfully achieved.  That the impersonation inclined perhaps a little too much towards reserve was really so much to the good rather than otherwise. to have presented a melodramatic Iago would have been easy, but would have been to miss the real significance of the character.

'Miss Muriel Brunskill made a fine Emilia, and Messrs Tudor Davies, Philip Bertram, Frederic Collier, and Liddell Peddieson, as Cassio, Lodovico, Montano, and Roderigo, respectively, were all good.  It is a tribute to the excellence of the performance that it impressed itself upon the attention  primarily as drama rather than music.  That this was so however, was because, as music, the performance was so good.

'Mr Aylmer Buesst, who conducted, did wonders, and principals, chorus and orchestra supported him splendidly. The mounting was the same as at previous performances of the opera here,  and presented a succession of mellow-toned, impressive stage pictures.'


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

Montano predecessor of Otello in Cyprus

Frederic Collier (Oct 19)

Cassio Otello's lieutenant

Tudor Davies (Oct 1, 19)

Iago Otello's ensign

Alan Turner (Oct 1)

Harold Williams (Oct 19)

Roderigo a Venetian gentleman

Liddell Peddieson (Oct 19)

Otello a Moorish general, Venetian Governor of Cyprus

Frank Mullings (Oct 1, 19)

Desdemona Otello's wife

Eda Bennie (Oct 1)

Miriam Licette (Oct 19)

Emilia Iago's wife and Desdemona's companion

Constance Willis (Oct 1)

Muriel Brunskill (Oct 19)

Lodovico envoy of the Venetian republic

Philip Bertram (Oct 19)

Performance DatesOtello 1925

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

1 Oct, 19.00 8 Oct, 19.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

19 Oct, 19.00

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