Opera Scotland

Tales of Hoffmann 1925British National Opera Company

Read more about the opera Tales of Hoffmann

The two performances of Hoffmann during the four-week visit to the central belt were reserved to the final Saturday - a matinee in Glasgow and evening in Edinburgh.

There are some interesting features in the Edinburgh casting.  There is a move towards an authentic approach, with a single baritone (William Michael) covering all three villains.  Almost as ambitious was to have Sylvia Nelis doubling the coloratura doll Olympia with the warmly lyrical Antonia.  As the company still played the three acts in an inauthentic order (standard practice until the 'sixties), with the Giulietta/Venice act in the middle instead of at the end, Nelis had a substantial break between her two parts.

May Blyth would soon be taking on challenging soprano parts such as Eva and Aïda.  Here she is still singing a mezzo part - the kind of trouser role (like Siébel) that she was used to.

Hoffmann himself is sung by Maurice D'Oisly, an excellent lyric tenor better known on the concert platform.  His wife, the New Zealand soprano Rosina Buckman, was also with the company on this tour, singing Isolde.


An Edinburgh Verdict

The Scotsman of Monday, 26 October (p6) attended the final Saturday evening, despite the company having moved south on Sunday.  The critic did not go to the matinee of Carmen, but Hoffmann was seen to be more important:

'On Saturday the Edinburgh season of the British National Opera Company at the King's Theatre concluded with a repetition of Carmen in the afternoon and with The Tales of Hoffmann at night.  Offenbach's charming work received an excellent interpretation, Mr Maurice D'Oisly making his only appearance with the company, during its stay in Edinburgh, as Hoffmann, singing the music of the part with the easy grace and distinction of which he is a master.

'As last season, Miss May Blyth was a good Nicklaus;  Miss Sylvia Nelis was admirably effective in the dual rôles of Olympia and Antonia;  Mr William Michael presented a trio of excellent studies in the bizarre as Coppelius, Dapertutto and Dr Mirakel; while Mr Sydney Russell doubled the rôles of Spalanzani and the deaf servant Franz.  Miss Marjorie Parry was an attractive Giulietta, and the remaining characters were all well suited in their representatives.  The chorus work was especially good, particularly in the Inn scenes.  Mr Aylmer Buesst conducted.

'On the fall of the curtain, and after many recalls of the principals, Mr Frederic Austin, the artistic director of the company, addressed the audience upon the subject of a proposed guarantee fund for next season, bringing forward some facts as to the scale of the company's operations in travelling a large company, with an extensive repertory, and a correspondingly formidable volume of impedimenta, this last occupying, as he mentioned, twenty-five railway trucks in transit.


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

Nicklausse Hoffmann's friend

May Blyth (Oct 24 e)

Hoffmann a poet

Maurice D' Oisly (Oct 24 e)

Olympia a doll

Sylvia Nelis (Oct 24 e)

Spalanzani an Italian inventor

Sydney Russell (Oct 24 e)

Coppélius a scientist, Spalanzani's rival

William Michael (Oct 24 e)

Antonia Crespel's daughter

Sylvia Nelis (Oct 24 e)

Franz Crespel's servant

Sydney Russell (Oct 24 e)

Dr Miracle a doctor

William Michael (Oct 24 e)

Giulietta a courtesan

Marjorie Parry (Oct 24 e)

Dapertutto a sorcerer

William Michael (Oct 24 e)

Performance DatesTales of Hoffmann 1925

Map List

Theatre Royal, Glasgow | Glasgow

10 Oct, 14.00

King's Theatre, Edinburgh | Edinburgh

24 Oct, 19.15

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